At a time when nurses face “epidemic levels of violence at work,” there’s a lot we all can do to help, said presenters during a Wednesday morning Annual Meeting session on “Violence in the Workplace.”

“After all, what we all want is to be able to work together as a team and work together responsibly to change the current culture,” said Ruth Francis, senior policy advisor for the American Nurses Association.

Many consider California a leader in this area after the California Department of Occupational Health and Safety adopted a mandatory standard last year to protect health care workers from workplace violence. Many of the standard’s requirements go into effect this April. And the Service Employees International Union is holding two-day trainings across the state this month and next to help ensure the standard results in meaningful change.

“I think it’s a wonderful model” for other states, said session presenter Mark Caitlin of SEIU. “I think the real key is that this is a mandatory, minimum requirement. Employers can do better than this requirement, but they’re not supposed to do less.”

Among available resources on workplace violence: a new American Nursing Association position statement — “Incivility, Bullying, and Workplace Violence” — designed to help nurses and their employers understand what they can do to improve workplace safety.

When it comes to being bullied by co-workers, presenter Judy Arnetz of Michigan State University said her small study found nurses want to approach the issue as a group, not individually. Instead of one-on-one conflict resolution, a better approach might highlight “open team communication and a culture of respect and social cohesion,” Arnetz said.

She suggested regular team meetings that feature an open dialogue about what bullying looks like, what’s not acceptable and “how can we make things better?” Sounds like a great idea for all types of workplaces.

One challenge when it comes to workplace violence and bullying is accurately measuring the problem. Data collected on workplace injuries and deaths don’t include people who were attacked on the job but not injured, for example. And many injuries also go unreported, whether due to shame or fear of losing one’s job.

“Some people would simply rather not report it and rather not deal with it,” West Virginia University researcher Kim Rauscher told attendees. “We know very little about people who experience workplace violence but haven’t been injured.”

She said she’s excited to expand upon the work she presented in Atlanta, with hopes of being able to track differences between adult workers and teens and young adults. A small study she discussed during the session found younger workers are more likely to be verbally or physically attacked by fellow younger workers on the job. And they’re less likely than adults older than 25 to report an attack to the police.

Rauscher and her colleagues recently received federal funding to conduct a national telephone survey of workers ages 14-24. She hopes what they learn will help with future efforts to address workplace violence. And she hinted that the study could be featured at APHA’s 2018 Annual Meeting. Stay tuned to find out.