Ginnette Kitchen, MSc, RMN, RN.
Research Nurse Fellow, Camden and Islington NHS Mental Health and Social Care Trust, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Whittington Hospital, LondonElder abuse is thought to be common in the UK, but we are reliant on figures generated in other countries such as the USA. A US study of nursing homes revealed high rates of abuse, with more than 81% of staff claiming to have witnessed psychological abuse and 36% witnessing physically abusive acts towards residents in their care (Pillemer and Moore, 1989).
This study aimed to investigate whether nurses working with older people would recognise two scenarios, one of suspected abuse and one of definite abuse, and respond appropriately to either.
Sampling frame - All participants were qualified nurses, either hospital or community based, and worked solely with older people. They worked for an inner-London NHS trust and at the time of the study had not yet attended a newly set up course on the recognition and management of abuse.
Participants - Forty of the 45 nurses (89%) approached participated. One ward nurse and four community psychiatric nurses refused.
This study involved a questionnaire survey of qualified nurses. The response rate was high and the sample represented nurses working with older people in inner-city areas. This is a maximum variation sample in that respondents included:
The study relied on nurses telling us what they would do in specified scenarios. It is impossible to know whether respondents would have reacted in exactly the same way had they been confronted with a real-life situation but we feel that their responses were plausible.
To date there has been no national study on the prevalence of abuse in UK hospitals. If one reason for not reporting abuse is fear of recrimination, this is a barrier to researching its prevalence. It is difficult to estimate the efficacy of interventions without first being able to measure the problem.
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