Aim. This study focuses on the experience of healthcare staff with regard to patient and visitor violence in a general hospital. The occurrence of patient and visitor violence, staffs interventions and the consequences of violence for different professions are investigated. Background. There is a lack of studies describing the factors influencing the occurrence of patient and visitor violence, intervention strategies and consequences. Existing studies often focus on nurses experiences and single interactive factors between staff and patients/visitors involved. Design. A cross-sectional survey. Method. The survey was conducted in 2007 including 2495 staff working on different wards in a Swiss university general hospital. The questionnaire used was the Survey of Violence Experienced by Staff German Version-Revised. Findings. Half of the staff experienced patient and visitor violence in the past 12 months and 11% in the past week. The age of the staff and the length of experience in their present workplace influenced the exposure to patient and visitor violence. Violence occurred mainly when staff carried out tasks involving close personal contact. Only 16% of the staff was trained in aggression management. The feeling of confidence in managing patient and visitor violence depended significantly on the organizational attitude towards violence. The principal interventions used were calming and informative discussion. Conclusion. To prevent patient and visitor violence and improve management strategies, training which focuses on communication skills, which is specific to the professional context and which emphasizes patient centeredness, need to be designed and implemented. A strong organizational commitment is imperative to reduce violence.