Rural Emergency Department Nurses’ Experiences with Workplace Violence


  • Theresa Garren-Grubbs, DNP, RN, CMSRN, CNL South Dakota State University
  • Lori Hendrickx, EdD, RN, CCRN, CNL South Dakota University


Purpose: Workplace violence (WPV) includes acts or threats of physical violence along with harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the worksite. WPV, especially in the emergency department (ED), is often underreported as many nurses consider violence inevitable and a part of the job. There is a perception of a lack of consequences when reporting, and lack of support from organizational administration. Most of the research on WPV has occurred in urban settings and research in rural hospitals is limited. The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of rural South Dakota ED nurse’s experiences with workplace violence.

Sample: Ten registered nurses employed at Critical Access Hospitals across SD participated in the interviews. Years of experience ranged from 2 to 25 years.

Methods: A descriptive, phenomenological approach with snowballing technique was utilized. Interviews were conducted independently with each participant. Participants were asked to respond to five pre-determined questions. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed for themes.

Findings: Five themes emerged from the interviews: isolation, reliance on law enforcement, familiarity with patients, preparation, or lack thereof, and chemical influence on patients.

Results: While WPV in EDs has been studied previously, most of these studies have focused on urban settings. The themes emerging from the current study identify challenges of WPV in rural settings. Future studies should explore effective interventions to deter WPV in rural healthcare settings.

Keywords: workplace violence, emergency department, rural

Author Biographies

  • Theresa Garren-Grubbs, DNP, RN, CMSRN, CNL, South Dakota State University

    Clinical Assistant Professor, College of Nursing

  • Lori Hendrickx, EdD, RN, CCRN, CNL, South Dakota University

    Professor, College of Nursing