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Press portrayal of care leaves nurses exposed to abuse

Media scrutiny around poor examples of care may be changing the way the nursing is perceived by the public and exposing nurses to increasing levels of abuse, warn Australian researchers.

They found nurses were “exposed to potentially damaging levels of verbal abuse” in their everyday work that was “highly offensive, demeaning and largely sexual”.

A study by the University of Western Sydney included over a 1,000 hours of observation of nurses engaged in routine work and notes on more than 200 incidents of violence or abuse.

The researchers identified a broad range of verbal abuse including gendered sexual abuse, demeaning insults, ridicule, unreasonable demands and threats of physical violence.

The authors said: “The offensive nature of the abuse experienced suggests that the personal safety of nurses is placed at risk through widely held stereotypes and poor public images of nurses and nursing.

“In light of the widely debated public opinions about the state of nurses and nursing we believe it is timely to ask whether the profession is losing its previously well regarded status and whether unbridled media debate potentially places nurses at risk of increased exposure to verbal abuse.”

The findings were presented on Monday at the Royal College of Nursing’s international research conference in London.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Nurses are not respected, accept abuse as part of the job and are portrayed negatively, this is nothing new but it is getting worse, this is very serious and time the media and others realised the damage they are doing.

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  • are there any ways of breaking down stereotyping in favour of more positive and healthy attitudes. after all we are all here together whichever group we belong to and should be working together to improve our quality of life and the services we provide to others. stereotyping, labelling and generalisation encouraged by often savage reports in the media achieves nothing and can just breed hatred and discrimination against whole groups of people whether such characteristics attributed to them apply to individuals in the group or not.

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