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Over 90% of nurses experience violence or verbal abuse


A study has found that three out of four nurses have experienced violence while at work, and 9 out of 10 have suffered verbal abuse.

Out of 2,354 nurses interviewed in the study, three-quarters said they had experienced some form of violence in their job, while 92% said they had been verbally abused by patients.

Despite the high number of cases of workplace violence identified in the study, official figures fail to reflect the severity of the situation, with only one in six cases formally reported, the study found.

“Many nurses said they felt that workplace violence was just part of the job”

Lead author Dr Rose Chapman

Many of the nurses involved in the research, carried out by a team from Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia, said they felt as though workplace abuse or violence was simply “part of the job”.

Some 69% said they had been physically threatened, 52% said they had been physically assaulted and 40% said they had been involved in a situation in which a weapon was used.

Lead author Dr Rose Chapman said: “Many of the nurses who took part in the research said that they did not report incidents because they felt that workplace violence was just part of the job”.

The age, sex and level of experience of the nurses involved in the study varied, while the number and nature of incidents also varied depending on what department they worked in.



Readers' comments (8)

  • Sadly it has become somewhat part of our "job discription" Bullied by Staff/Patients has now become the "norm" and acceptable to Nursing. Hospital Policies on zero tolerance and bullying is SHAMEFUL!

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  • I so agree with Anonymous, 04/04/10. We are told to consider the mental health of the individual and look for other ways to distract or appease them but, working with the elderly, which I have to say i really enjoy most of the time, there are times when they become unmanageable in certain settings and yet we are just expected to put up with it. Likewise their kin can be abusive and threatening which is extremely upsetting when we are trying to do our best and acting in everyone's best interest. Our job can be stressful enough without having to put up with unacceptable behaviour.

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  • I agree totally there is no respect for nurses any more either from some patients and relatives even doctors that you work with and yet the service could not run without us. Nurses have a very demanding job work extra hours and provide high standards of care but who cares about nurses? There is supposed to be zero tolerance in the trust for abuse but yet we still are subject to it with no support.

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  • Mertha Nyamande RMN

    The dilemma of the nursing profession is that nurses are expected to put up and shut up, due to the caring nature of the role. We deal with vulnerable individuals, yet at the same time the very vulnerable individuals are the ones being abusive and violent. As stated in earlier comments there is no support because there is no real evidence on how to deal with abusive individuals. a lot of the time, the ones being abusive is not due to their mental illness, but more behavioural or its just how they are used to interact and you cannot really change someone's personality in a short period, if at all. similarly, working with personality disordered patients, one has to be really patient, yet alert at all times to ensure boundaries are maintained as the patients can turn on you when you thought you were interacting well. so more research work is work is required in this area

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  • Sadly just this week whilst at work I have been sworn at and shouted at by patients venting their frustration at the computer system/appointments/care recived/rudeness etc. etc. the list is endless. There seems to be little understanding of respect and common decency. My experience this week has led to a resolve that I will no longer tolerate this kind of abuse and rudeness in my work place any more and intend to make it clear to co-workers that they should adopt a similar attitude.

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  • Valid comments from previous colleagues. My early orientation advised us to develop what is called "Pachyderm" an elephant like skin-that can accommodate all sort of abuses BUT from patients they taught us. Though not good for my health yet I can tolerate any form of abuse from patients being who they are-PATIENTS. Those abuses that do my head and cannt tolerate comes from other colleagues or doctors. Respect should be the basis of our professionalism and I think nurses deserve an uncompromise respect.

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  • I understand that patients get frustrated, they can be away from home for a long time and feel they lack control BUT that is no excuse. I have recently nursed a patient who refused to drugs because a black staff nurse was doing the drug round, has thrown a knife at another black member of staff. The patient was also sexually abusive touching female members of staff. Refusing cares from fat members of staff. Swearing at everybody. Yes for those of us who had 'elephant like skin' this person was a patient but to say our trust has a zero tolerance policy this patient remained. This patient also caused myself to end up off sick because they decided that because they could they would pull back on me whilst doing cares. Someone somewhere needs to get the balls to enforce the zero tolerance policy, or decide to pay us better because taking absuse certainly isn't in my job decription!

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  • I find the above comments very interesting having just read a similar article on NT about rage towards nurses.

    It's interesting to not that RMNs on this thread find the behaviour of violence and aggression unacceptable, yet on the thread on the rage article(Oct '10) , many nurses simply thought it was acceptable and even to be expected from mentally ill patients.

    Perhaps the authors of the above comments should share their thoughts and experiences on that thread?

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