Purpose: To describe the experience of verbal abuse in a large multihospital system and determine the relationship of verbal abuse with intent to leave the organization.
Design: Descriptive correlational design using mailed questionnaires.
Sample: Randomized sample of 1000 nurses received questionnaire; 46% response rate, with a final useable sample of 461 surveys.
Findings: Of the respondents, 91% had experienced verbal abuse in the past month. The physician was the most frequent source of verbal abuse, followed by patients, patient families, peers, supervisors, and subordinates. More than 50% of the sample did not feel competent in responding to verbal abuse. Amount of abuse and intent to leave were significantly related (r = .211, p < .01).
Discussion: Organizations must adopt zero-tolerance policies for professional verbal abuse. Education and coaching are needed to help nurses to improve their skills when responding to patient-to-nurse and professional-to-professional verbal abuse.
Laura Sofield, MSN, RN, Director of Clinical Practice, Meridian Institute for Aging, Senior Health Center, an outpatient department of Meridian Health System.
Susan W. Salmond, EdD, RN, CNAA, Professor & Chair, Department of Nursing, Kean University.