Providing health care in the shadow of violence: Does emotion regulation vary among hospital workers from different professions?

Hadass Goldblatt, Anat Freund, Anat Drach-Zahavy, Guy Enosh, Ilana Peterfreund, Neomi Edlis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research into violence against health care staff by patients and their families within the health care services shows a rising frequency of incidents. The potentially damaging effects on health care staff are extensive, including diverse negative psychological and physical symptoms. The aim of this qualitative study was to examine how hospital workers from different professions reacted to patients’ and visitors’ violence against them or their colleagues, and how they regulated their emotional reactions during those incidents. The research question was as follows: How do different types of hospital workers regulate the range of their emotional reactions during and after violent events? Participants were 34 hospital workers, representing several professional sectors. Data were collected through in-depth semistructured interviews, which were later transcribed and thematically content analyzed. Five themes were revealed, demonstrating several tactics that hospital workers used to regulate their emotions during incidents of violent outbursts by patients or visitors: (1) Inability to Manage Emotion Regulation, (2) Emotion Regulation by Distancing and Disengagement Tactics, (3) Emotion Regulation Using Rationalization and Splitting Tactics, (4) Emotion Regulation via the Use of Organizational Resources, and (5) Controlling Emotions by Suppression. Hospital workers who experienced dissonance between their professional expectations and their emotional reactions to patients’ violence reported using various emotion regulation tactics, consequently managing to fulfill their duty competently. Workers who did not experience such dissonance felt in full control of their emotions and did not manifest responses of emotion regulation. Others, however, experienced intense emotional flooding and failed to regulate their emotions. We recommend developing health care staff’s awareness of possible emotional implications of violent incidents, for themselves as people and for their intact functioning at work. In addition, we recommend further development of health care staff training programs for coping with violent patients and enhancement of formal and informal organizational support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1908-1933
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - 1 May 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2017.


  • emotion regulation
  • health care staff
  • hospital workers
  • patient violence
  • patient–provider communication
  • qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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