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Workplace violence on the rise in Queensland: survey of nurses

Around half of Queensland’s nurses and midwives say they have experienced workplace violence in the three months prior to a survey of state union members.

This is up from around 40 per cent reported in 2001.

The survey of 2397 nurses and midwives, conducted by several Queensland universities and the Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU), 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.

Research lead and CQUniversity professorial research fellow Desley Hegney said 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,” Hegney said. “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."

Hegney said there should be concern about the perceived lack of real action by managers to curb this rising problem.

She said a partial solution would be to limit patients from leaving the ward, especially at night, in case they accessed drugs or alcohol. Other measures suggested in the study included adequate staffing and better security equipment, facilities and procedures on wards, and that people are held more accountable for acts of violence.

Staff also wanted appropriate resources to ensure safety when they are away from the clinic. Hegney said: "The bottom line was that they 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."

QNMU secretary Beth Mohle said the union is working hard to identify and implement solutions to prevent violence in our workplaces but needs community support. “We take care of our patients, clients and residents but we need the community to take care of us too.”

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