Nurses speak out about violence in the workplace

Thursday 23rd April, 2015

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

Approximately 5000 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 per cent of nurses, midwives and carers surveyed had experienced violence and aggression at work in the past year and for almost 25 per cent 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 the Monash survey.

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

A further 18 per cent of incidents were at the hands of colleagues.

ANMF (Vic Branch) 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 (Vic Branch) 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 (Vic Branch) 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 (Vic Branch) 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 our 10-point plan to end violence and aggression before the 2014 state election ­­­and we will be working with the State Government on an OVA committee that addresses the problems health professionals face.

‘Currently, the ANMF (Vic Branch) 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.’

Some of the OVA incidents we can report 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 (Vic Branch) since 10 February.

For the results of the full survey read here.

If you need support from the ANMF (Vic Branch) regarding an OVA incident at work, please fill out our confidential form here.