Method: In this phenomenological study on CV, social workers were purposively recruited in multiple social work settings to participate in an individual interview. Each of the 16 consented social workers participated in a one-hour interview. Demographic questions included: age; employment status and job position; years of social work practice experience. Semi-structured questions were asked regarding experiences in and perceptions toward CV. After obtaining consent from the respondents, the principal researcher conducted and audio-recorded each interview and transcribed the contents verbatim. The transcripts were imported into Nvivo12 and coded by two other researchers for triangulation. There were two cycles of coding: open coding to identify potential codes of violent acts; pattern coding to group the open codes into themes.
Results: The interview participants’ age ranged from 24 to 61, with a mean of 44.25 (SD=12.44). They had worked in current job for 9.03 years (SD=5.32). Half of them (n=8, 50%) reported working as frontline workers, 43.75% worked as administrators, and 6.25% had both roles. Their work settings included child protection services (n=8), women shelter (n=2), hospital setting (n=2), behavioral health services (n=2), hospice (n=1), and private practice (n=1).
All respondents had experienced CV in their career. Eight themes emerged from past experiences: Assessment of the violence situation (n=274): severity, frequency, triggers; Skills in de-escalating conflicts (n=143); Empathy toward the clients (n=141); Support from the work settings (n=103); Use of advocacy skills to help clients (n=48); Support from personal network (n=36); Social work job commitment (n=35); and Trauma-related feelings about personal safety (n=32). The phenomenon of client violence was expressed in terms of “expected worker stress” from “unwelcome aggression.”
Conclusions: Social workers described experiences to support advocacy efforts to mobilize resources to support worker safety. Promoting and educating the general public about the importance of anger management and mental wellness require evidence to address the problem. Case vignettes from social workers’ experiences can be used for advocating agency policy changes. Practitioners can plan preventive measures so that clients and workers are ready to work together with no fear. Through social workers’ voices, preventing client violence is an ethical standard in social work practice.