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Orthopaedic Nursing

August 2003, Volume 22 Number 4 , p 274 - 283


  • Laura Sofield
  • Susan W. Salmond



To describe the experience of verbal abuse in a large multihospital system and determine the relationship of verbal abuse with intent to leave the organization.


Descriptive correlational design using mailed questionnaires.


Randomized sample of 1000 nurses received questionnaire; 46% response rate, with a final useable sample of 461 surveys.


Of the respondents, 91% had experienced verbal abuse in the past month. The physician was the most frequent source of verbal abuse, followed by patients, patient families, peers, supervisors, and subordinates. More than 50% of the sample did not feel competent in responding to verbal abuse. Amount of abuse and intent to leave were significantly related (r = .211, p < .01).


Organizations must adopt zero-tolerance policies for professional verbal abuse. Education and coaching are needed to help nurses to improve their skills when responding to patient-to-nurse and professional-to-professional verbal abuse.

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