Hennepin Healthcare nurses report rising violence against nurses and patients, cite under-staffing, unresponsive management as barriers in new survey


Contact: Sam Fettig
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Lauren Nielsen
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In new survey of Hennepin nurses, 81 percent believe patient safety may be at risk

(St. Paul) – August 10, 2022 – A new survey of Hennepin Healthcare nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association highlights rising levels of violence against nurses and patients and identifies under-staffing and unresponsive management as the top barriers to reporting and resolving the problem. In the report, 97 percent of nurses observed workplace violence or harassment in the last two years, but just over half of respondents had reported these incidents to their employer. The top reasons cited by nurses who did not report workplace violence were lack of time due to overwork and under-staffing, cited by 58 percent of respondents, and lack of action by hospital management, cited by 53 percent of nurses in the survey. Higher staffing levels were identified by 78 percent of nurses as a meaningful solution to address potential violence against nurses and patients.

“On my unit, reports of physical violence against nurses increased 200 percent in 2021. People would be shocked to hear what nurses go through on a daily basis,” said Sidney Brown, RN at Hennepin Healthcare. “We are healthcare workers trying to do our best to provide the care our patients expect and deserve – to do that, we need to be safe and supported on the job, and that starts at the top, with management.”

When asked to identify risk factors that nurses believe contribute to an unsafe work environment, 77 percent of responding nurses cited chronic under-staffing as a top concern, second only to concerns relating to the risks specific patients might present. The next-highest factor cited by nurses was the perception that violence was tolerated by management and that reporting the incidents to hospital executives would have no effect; this factor was cited by 76 percent of nurse respondents at Hennepin.

“After I was assaulted, I was not allowed to leave the floor to seek medical treatment because we were so short-staffed that there was nobody else who could provide care to my patients. I was extremely disappointed in the response of Hennepin Healthcare management at every step of the process,” said Kelsey Boeshans, RN and MNA Chair at Hennepin Healthcare. “We need management to acknowledge the severity of the problem and to take action to protect and support nurses who have experienced violence in the workplace.”

Nurses in the survey also made clear that violence in hospitals is not only a threat to nurses and other healthcare workers. In the survey, 81 percent of nurses indicated that they considered patient safety to be at risk in their hospitals due to violence. Whether the violence targeted nurses or patients, 68 percent of nurses did not feel hospital executives had prepared them properly to deal with such scenarios with adequate training.

“Working as a float nurse in the ICU at Hennepin County Medical Center, I recently had a young patient kick me in the stomach while I was eight months pregnant. Accidents happen, but this was not the first case of violence with this patient,” said Rita Gyasi, RN at Hennepin Healthcare. “Right now, it feels like our staff assignments are not set up in a way to keep nurses safe and to give patients the care they deserve. These incidents happen too often, and I hope management can do more to prevent and address them.”

The crisis of short staffing and retention continues to worsen, as one recent study found that half of all nurses now consider leaving the bedside in the next year due to short staffing and moral distress. Along with the impact of short staffing on nurse retention, under staffing was also found to contribute to an increase in adverse events for Minnesota patients in a recent study from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Nurses at Hennepin Healthcare are currently negotiating with hospital executives in a “wage reopener” on their current contracts, seeking fair and competitive wages to help retain and recruit nurses at Hennepin to ensure quality patient care.



  1. The research has already been done. Research found that increased nurse staffing levels allow nurses to deliver patient care in a timely manner (reducing patient frustration and anger), give them more time to recognize and de-escalate indicators of potential violent behavior, and let them respond faster and more effectively to workplace violence incidents when they begin.

  2. This is happening at ALL metro hospitals!

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