New Poll Reveals Violence in American Hospitals

Continuing with our November theme on violence in American hospitals, below are the results of a survey on hospital violence by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Published in August 2022, this is a follow-up to a similar survey conducted in 2018. Overall, the study found that in virtually all cases, more assaults and more violence is happening today in ED departments than in 2018.

The survey involved 2,712 responses from doctors and nurses working in emergency departments in every state in the country. It has a margin of error of +/- 2%.

Here are some of the key questions and findings regarding violence in American Hospitals:

Have you ever been assaulted or witnessed an assault in the ED?

  • 55% said yes, I have been assaulted.
  • 79% said yes, I have witnessed someone being assaulted.

By gender, have you been assaulted in the ED?

  • Men, 58 percent.
  • Women, 50 percent

How many times have you been assaulted (in the past year)?

  • None, 32%
  • Once, 30%
  • 2-6 times, 30%
  • 6 to 10 times, 3%
  • More than ten times, 3%

If assaulted, who committed the assault?

  • Patient, 98%
  • Patient family or friend, 31%
  • ED colleague, 1%

Who committed the assault by gender?

  • Male patients, 99 percent.
  • Female patients, 98 percent.
  • Patient family or friend, 34% male, 25% female
  • Colleagues, 1% male, 1% female.

Did hospital security respond to the assault?

  • Yes, 70%
  • No, 26%
  • N/A 4%

How did your hospital respond to the assault?

  • Hospital or nursing staff put a behavioral flag into the patient’s medical chart, 29%
  • Hospital security arrested the patient for the assault or enlisted law enforcement to arrest the patient, 16%
  • Hospital administration advised doctors and nurses to press charges, 6%
  • Hospital security pressed charges, 2%

If you were assaulted in the ED, were you injured (requiring medical attention)?

  • Yes, 67%

Have you missed part of your shift due to an assault in the ED?

  • Yes, 9%
  • No, 91%

What was the nature of your most recent assault?

  • Verbal with threats, 64%
  • Hit or slap, 40%
  • Spit on, 31%
  • Kicked, 26%
  • Scratched, 19%
  • Bitten, 6%

In your opinion, is violence in the ED negatively impacting patient care?

  • Yes, 89%
  • No, 6%
  • N/A, 5%

After being released, has a patient ever threatened to return and harm you or others in the ED?

  • 85%, yes
  • 15%, no

In your opinion, has violence in the ED increased over the past five years?

  • Significantly increased, 45%
  • Somewhat increased, 40%
  • Not changed, 40%
  • Not changed, 9%

Addressing the Violence in American Hospitals

As to ways to improve safety in the ED, the researchers suggested the number one way is to add more security guards and security cameras in the ED, install security cameras in parking lots and surrounding outdoor areas, install metal detectors, and screen all patients before treatment. In a genuine emergency, screening all patients before treatment may be difficult, but it was recommended. 

Further, conducting a physical security assessment of the ED and surrounding areas will reveal security gaps and suggest steps to take to eliminate those gaps.


As always, we value your feedback, which helps us shape our perspective on recent events, security, and the services we offer.

Source: ACEP EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT VIOLENCE POLL RESULTS, prepared for the American College of Emergency Physicians in August 2022.


violence in American hospitals

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