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Violence against nurses is on the rise, but protections remain weak

17 May 2017
  • Nurses are at the front line of violence in hospitals, particularly those working in emergency, aged care and mental health.
  • The frequency and severity of violent incidents are increasing, yet such episodes remain vastly under-reported.

Two recent violent episodes against nurses in emergency departments have again highlighted the issue of inadequate protections for nursing staff.

In both cases the nurses, from Wyong Hospital [opens external link] on the central coast of NSW and The Royal Melbourne Hospital [opens external link] in Victoria, were held hostage by knife-wielding patients. These cases seem extreme, but they are not isolated.

Nurses are exposed to high levels of physical and verbal violence [opens external link], to the point where this has become an expected and even accepted part of their job.

In 1999, the Australian Institute of Criminology [opens external link] ranked the health industry as the most violent workplace in the country. According to US statistics, health-care workers are five to 12 times more likely than other workers to experience violence in the workplace.

Worldwide, nurses are more likely to be attacked at work than prison guards and police officers. And yet such incidents remain under-reported and existing protections are not enough to ensure the safety of nurses and their patients.

Read the full story on The Conversation [opens external link]

Byline: Dr Jacqui Pich