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Issue #1682      April 29, 2015

Nurses speak out about violence in the workplace

The ANMF (Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Vic Branch) recently took part in a Monash University study into occupational health and safety in the workplace.

Approximately 5,000 nurses, midwives and carers responded and the results shone a light on the occupational aggression and violence (OVA) that nurses, midwives and carers consistently face at work.

Two of the most alarming statistics found were that 70 percent of nurses, midwives and carers surveyed had experienced violence and aggression at work in the past year and for almost 25 percent it was on a regular basis.

In the past 12 months, nurses, midwives and carers reported experiencing on average at least two instances of the following: physical altercations (such as being hit, kicked, grabbed, bitten etc.), witnessing another person being subjected to a physical altercation and being verbally abused, according to the Monash survey.

OVA incidents on nurses were most commonly perpetrated by patients (40 percent), followed by patient relatives (25 percent), patient visitors (13 percent) and the public (four percent).

A further 18 percent of incidents were at the hands of colleagues.

ANMF state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said that it wasn’t just the frequency of incidents that was alarming. “We have to keep in mind that the severity of attacks is also increasing,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

“We cannot have nurses going to work, quite rightly, in fear for their lives and being frightened of being strangled, which has happened on a number of occasions already in 2015.

“Tackling OVA is a top priority for the ANMF and for the Victorian health community at large. The results of the Monash OHS survey were indicative of our own anecdotal evidence, as almost every week the ANMF is notified or informed about nurses, midwives and carers being physically or verbally attacked in the workplace.

“We have introduced a confidential reporting system on the ANMF website so nurses, midwives and carers can notify the branch if an OVA event occurs and we can step in to help.”

Premier Daniel Andrews signed the union’s 10-point plan to end violence and aggression before the 2014 state election and the union says they will be working with the state government on an OVA committee that addresses the problems health professionals face.

Currently, the ANMF is engaged with Monash Health to put in place policies that protect patients and staff. Monash Health is introducing a new mental health bed access policy to improve the safety of so called “pop up” mental health wards in the general acute setting to manage peak demands for beds.

“The pop up wards were putting staff and patients at serious risk and we are pleased with the actions taken by Monash Health to address these issues thus far,” said Ms Fitzpatrick.

Some of the OVA incidents reported from 2015 include:

  • A graduate nurse at a major metropolitan hospital was strangled by a patient and became unconscious.
  • A patient under the influence of Ice was being moved from an emergency department to a ward at a major metropolitan hospital when he became so violent staff were forced to call police for assistance. Several police officers attended to assist.
  • Nurses at a regional aged care facility have made 23 OVA claims to the ANMF since February 10.

Next article – Pyne’s broken promise on disability schools funding

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