Violence against emergency healthcare workers: different perpetrators, different approaches Academic Article uri icon

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  • Purpose This study aims to investigate whether emergency health-care workers distinguish between different categories of perpetrators of violence and how they respond to different types of perpetrator profiles. Design/methodology/approach Five focus groups with emergency health-care workers were held in Canada. The participants were asked whether they identified different groups of perpetrators of violence and how that impacted their approach. The focus group responses were transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically using a phenomenological approach. Findings Participants consistently identified five groups of perpetrators and tailored their approach on their assessment of the type of perpetrator involved. The five categories are: violence or aggressive behaviour from family members or bystander and violence related to; underlying mental health/illness issues; underlying physical health issues; addiction and substance use; and repeat visitors/offenders. Violence with an underlying (mental) health cause was handled professionally and compassionately by the health-care workers, while less patience and understanding was afforded in those instances where violence was associated with (recreational) alcohol or illicit substance use. Originality/value Emergency health-care workers can consistently distinguish between types of perpetrators of violence and aggression, which they then use as one factor in the clinical and situational assessments that inform their overall approach to the management incidents. This conclusion supports the need to move the focus away from the worker to the perpetrator and to an organisational rather than individual approach to help minimise violence against emergency health-care workers.


  • Spelten, Evelien
  • van Vuuren, Julia
  • O’Meara, Peter
  • Thomas, Brodie
  • Grenier, Mathieu
  • Ferron, Richard
  • Helmer, Jennie
  • Agarwal, Ragini Gina

publication date

  • April 5, 2022