Combating Client-Inflicted Workplace Violence among Direct Care Workers

Shelly S. McDowell-Porter

Shelly S. McDowell-Porter

Greetings! I am the proud daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, and friend of many direct care paraprofessionals (DCPs), the term I am using for my PhD project on frontline workers such as home health attendants, home health aides, certified nursing assistants, and personal care assistants. I am also a licensed clinical social worker and a PhD student at the Howard University School of Social Work in Washington D.C. If you are a direct care worker, I need your help to complete a survey on client-Inflicted workplace violence for my doctoral thesis.

My doctoral research is a tribute to the women in my family, who did the hard work of caring for others in order to care for their loved ones. It focuses on client-inflicted workplace violence, the victimization of DCPs at the hands of their clients or their client’s family members. Workplace violence comes in many forms, including (but not limited to) physical assault, sexual assault, verbal abuse, and emotional abuse.

Combating Client-Inflicted Workplace Violence Directed Against DCPs

My interest in the issue of workplace violence for DCPs is born out of the understanding that, during her 26 years of employment as a DCP, my mother endured years of client-inflicted workplace violence. Why didn’t she just find a new job? Well, it was not so easy for a new immigrant whose family obligations both in the U.S. (my sisters and I) and abroad (her mother, 6 siblings and 18 nieces/nephews) required her to maintain steady employment, regardless of how difficult the working conditions may prove to be.

An increasing number of studies demonstrate how common client-inflicted workplace violence is and how detrimental its effects can be to the well-being of workers, but very little research has been conducted among DCPs relating to client-inflicted workplace violence. This is partly because of a workplace culture that sees client-inflicted workplace violence as simply “a part of the job.”

The fact that there is no protection for the DCP’s basic right to a safe and healthy work environment—no legal repercussions for the offenders, no standard management policies to protect workers–is deplorable. By facilitating a research study on this problem, I hope to bring awareness to the phenomenon of client-inflicted workplace violence for DCPs.

How You Can Help

I can’t bring awareness about on my own. I need your support in collecting the data necessary to demonstrate the significance of the phenomenon of client-inflicted workplace violence. To that end, DCA has graciously supported my work, including providing limited access to their database of members and supporters. So, if you receive an email from me with a link to the survey, I hope you will take the time (up to 25 minutes) to help me and support your profession by completing the survey. Those who complete the survey will automatically be entered into a raffle to win one of six $150 Visa gift cards.


To qualify for participation in this study, an individual must be a) at least 18 years old, b) currently employed or previously employed as a DCP (i.e. a certified nursing assistant, personal care aide, orderly, home health care aide, home health attendant, or other paid direct care worker), and c) working with adult patients or clients.

Participation in this study is voluntary, confidential, and completely anonymous. Participants will not be asked at any time to provide any identifying information, such as name, telephone number or email address. Participants may withdraw from this study at any time with no consequence.

Taking the Survey
If you would like to participate in this study, please click here to complete the survey.

Thank you in advance for your support. Please do not hesitate to contact me at or (301) 335-2275 for additional information.