Violence against nurses highest in aged care

Queensland nurses and midwives are experiencing increased violence in public, private and aged care facilities.


Around half of those surveyed had experienced workplace violence in the previous three months; up from levels around 40% reported in 2001.


The findings are according to a broad-ranging survey by a research team led by Central Queensland University Professorial Research Fellow Desley Hegney.


Brisbane-based Professor Hegney conducted the survey with colleagues from the University of Queensland, Curtin University, QUT and the Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union. A total of 2397 nurses and midwives responded.


"There should be concern about the rising exposure to occupational violence and the perceived lack of real action by managers to curb this rising problem," Professor Hegney says.


"Patients, clients, and residents were the most frequent perpetrators.


"Relatives were more frequently the perpetrators in the Acute Public sector than in other sectors – maybe reflecting the demographics of the patients.


“However, in aged care – public or private – there was very little difference.


"After patients and relatives, doctors and other nurses/midwives were more frequently the perpetrators in the Acute Private sector."


Professor Hegney said strategies suggested to combat violence against nurses included limiting patients from leaving the ward, especially at night, in case they accessed drugs or alcohol.


"The bottom line was that they [nurses and midwives] wanted more education and training – face to face, and more security such as personal duress systems, cameras, and people being charged who were behaving badly."


The study found violence against nurses and midwives was worse in aged care facilities and in hospitals in outer regional, remote and very remote areas than in large regional centres and major cities.

Ms Mohle said the report also found many nurses and midwives did not have time to meet patient or resident needs due to chronic understaffing – predominantly in the aged care sector. A quarter of respondents said they were unable to complete their jobs satisfactorily. This figure rose to 40 per cent in aged care.


The QNMU continues to campaign for safe staffing levels in aged care facilities statewide and nationally. Currently, there are no laws that dictate even a single Registered Nurse (RN) be on site at all times and no requirement that taxpayer funding be spent on direct clinical care for residents.


Some facilities rely on virtual nurses, or nurses located at sister facilities up to 400km away, to deliver potentially life-saving medical advice over the phone.


“Forty per cent of aged care nurses surveyed in the 'Your Work, Your Time, Your Life' study said they were unable to properly meet residents’ needs due to chronic understaffing,’’ Ms Mohle said.


20 July 2017.