Positive Work Environments of Early-Career Registered Nurses and the Correlation with Physician Verbal Abuse

Hospital medical professionals check a patient during admittance procedure.

The Issue:

Past research shows nurses experience verbal abuse worldwide, and that physicians are one of the main sources of verbal abuse. The aim of this study, a part of RWJF’s RN Work Project, is to access physician verbal abuse among newly licensed registered nurses (NLRNs).

Key Findings

  • Survey respondents were overwhelmingly White (84.9%) and female (91%).

  • NLRNs experiencing moderate abuse (one or more times in the last three months) were significantly younger than those experiencing no abuse.

  • NLRNs experiencing moderate abuse reported working in hospital settings; working day shifts; and working on units that were short-staffed.

  • NLRNs experiencing moderate or high (more than five times in the last three months) verbal abuse from physicians noted a less favorable perceived work environment, lower intent to stay at their current job, and lower organizational commitment.


This study finds that high levels of physician verbal abuse are closely associated with more negative work environments; causality is important in fully understanding and assessing the issue. The researchers note methods aimed at preventing verbal abuse must be part of a holistic approach to improving the work environment.

About the Study:

This study used the fourth wave of a national panel survey that began in 2006 of NLRNs licensed between August 1, 2004 and July 31, 2005. In the fourth wave, researchers surveyed 1,328 NLRNs, who responded to a shortened six-item version of the Verbal Abuse Scale, reporting the frequency of verbal abuse by physicians in the previous three months.