Psychiatry Investig.  2021 Aug;18(8):770-778. 10.30773/pi.2021.0066.

Empathy With Patients and Post-Traumatic Stress Response in Verbally Abused Healthcare Workers

  • 1Human Rights Center, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  • 2Department of Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  • 3Public Health Medical Service, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  • 4Department of Psychiatry, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  • 5Department of Psychiatry, Kangbuk Samsung Hospital, Seoul, Republic of Korea


The current study examined the differential empathic capacity, post-traumatic symptoms, and coping strategies in healthcare workers (HCWs) according to the exposure of verbal or physical workplace violence (WPV).
Using online survey, a total of 422 HCWs employed at a training general hospital of South Korea participated and completed self-reporting questionnaires including the WPV questionnaire with coping strategy, the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy.
Those who experienced either only verbal violence or both physical and verbal violence had lower Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy scores (p<0.05). Posttraumatic stress symptom severity was higher among people who experienced verbal violence than physical violence. HCWs’ exposure to verbal violence was associated with severe posttraumatic symptoms and a low level of empathy with patients (p<0.05). More than half of the victims of verbal violence responded that they did not take any action, receive organizational protection, or peer support, while most physically-abused HCWs received institutional intervention or help from others.
Our findings highlight the critical importance of reducing verbal violence, which may represent a larger psychological burden compared to physical violence, by actively implementing effective strategies and policies at the institutional level.


Workplace violence; Healthcare workers; Empathy; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Mental health
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