Characteristics of International Staff Victims
of Psychiatric Patient Assaults: Review of Published
Raymond B. Flannery Jr.
Georgina J. Flannery
Published online: 14 August 2014
Ó Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Abstract Psychiatric patient assaults on staff are a worldwide occupational hazard that
results in human suffering and dollar cost expense. International research in the 1990s
documented the frequent occurrence of these assaults. This present paper reviewed the
published, international literature on staff victim assaults during the ﬁrst decade of the new
century. The ﬁndings indicate assaults on staff remain a serious worldwide issue as it was
in the 1990s, even with new policy initiatives in place meant to reduce such violence. The
ﬁndings by continents and a detailed methodological inquiry are presented.
Keywords Assaults Á International studies Á Psychiatric patients Á Staff victims
Psychiatric patient assaults on healthcare staff are a worldwide occupational hazard [1–32].
While not all patients are assaultive, many are and these assaults may result in death,
permanent or temporary disability, medical injury, increased use of sick leave and
industrial accident claims, medical/legal expense, psychological fright, lost productivity,
and staff turnover [1–4].
In an international review of research in the 1990s on the characteristics of staff victims
of assaults, 18 studies documented 4,302 (1,399 male/2,903 female) staff assaults in a
variety of inpatient, outpatient, and community health care settings . These assaults
were both physical and verbal and occurred across disciplines in various countries
worldwide. Nursing staff appeared particularly at risk.
The ﬁrst decade of the present century has seen major changes in the psychiatric service
delivery systems. Major initiatives have included new medication agents, improved
R. B. Flannery Jr. (&) Á G. Wyshak
Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge Health Alliance, 1493 Cambridge
street, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
G. J. Flannery
Newton Free Library, Newton, MA, USA
Psychiatr Q (2014) 85:397–404