Nurses and Midwives Continue to Experience Violence at Work

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How would you feel if you went to work on a Monday morning only to get punched, spat at, threatened with a knife or even shot at? That’s the experience of many nurses and midwives every year.

At the 72nd annual NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) conference in July 2017, discussions with over 500 members revealed a number of serious workplace issues. One of the more alarming statistics was regarding nurses and midwives reporting issues that related to violence, aggression or security.

There has been a 24% increase in reporting these issues in the last 12 months with 38% of all issues followed up with members being related to violence, aggression and security. This may come as little surprise to nurses and midwives who continue to see aggressive behaviour at work from patients and their families.

A recent article for The Conversation by Jacqui Pich, a lecturer in nursing at UTS, detailed a number of recent cases of violence against nurses, including two separate cases in April 2017 where nurses were held at knife-point. Despite the seriousness of these incidents, little action is being taken.

A number of nurses and midwives across Australia recently told their stories of aggression on the NSWNMA Facebook page and once again emphasised these are not isolated problems:

“Verbal assault is becoming a daily occurrence. It’s ridiculous.”

“You depend on us & trust us to care for you & protect your life yet you show so little respect to another human being. Why?” 

“I never realized that assault was an issue in the hospital until I started working there. It’s time to bring awareness to it.” 

“I’ve been attacked. Bitten, slapped, punched, sworn at, hit… I still love my job but abuse shouldn’t happen anywhere. Sometimes some people can’t help it, but for those who are of sound mind in control of their rational thoughts, it’s not an excuse… look out for each other too.” 

“I’ve been seriously assaulted and seen so many of my colleagues seriously assaulted and we had been told in so many words – it’s part of the job.” 

“Part of the problem is that many nurses are told to let things like this go, as the ‘family is stressed’ or the patient is in an altered mental state. Any other field of work, and the person would be held accountable. Medical staff gets abused and has an obligation to continue providing care, so it gets swept under the rug.”

Violence in the workplace is never acceptable and more needs to be done to prevent further injury and trauma to nurses and midwives.

Have you witnessed or experienced violence, aggression or security issues at work? What do you think should be done to combat it?

Members of the NSWNMA can download the NSWNMA Toolkit App to use to report workplace violence incidents. 

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