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Keywords:

  • accident and emergency department;
  • assessment;
  • behaviour;
  • case study research;
  • interviews;
  • nursing;
  • observation;
  • violence

Abstract

Aim.  This paper is the report of a study to explicate the components of observable behaviour that indicate a potential for violence in patients, their family and friends when presenting at an emergency department.

Background.  Violence towards nurses is a contemporary, multifaceted problem for the healthcare workforce globally. International literature identifies emergency departments as having high levels of violence.

Method.  A mixed method case study design was adopted, and data were collected by means of 290 hours of participant observation, 16 semi-structured interviews and 13 informal field interviews over a 5-month period in 2005. Thematic analysis of textual data was undertaken using NVivo2. Frequency counts were developed from the numerical data.

Findings.  Five distinctive elements of observable behaviour indicating potential for violence in patients, their families and friends were identified. These elements can be conceptualized as a potential nursing violence assessment framework and described through the acronym STAMP: Staring and eye contact, Tone and volume of voice, Anxiety, Mumbling and Pacing.

Conclusion.  Staring and eye contact, Tone and volume of voice, Anxiety, Mumbling and Pacing provides a useful, practical nursing violence assessment framework to assist nurses to quickly identify patients, families and friends who have a potential for violence.