July 28, 2017

Half of Queensland nurses are assaulted every 3 months

A new report claims 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; a 20% increase from levels reported in 2001.

If the sample of 2,397 nurses who responded to the survey is representative of the whole, it's possible every nurse in Queensland experiences physical assault at least twice a year. 

The research was conducted by the University of Queensland, Central Queensland University, Curtin University, QUT and the QNMU. Lead Researcher Professor Desley Hegney presented the findings at the QNMU’s annual conference in July 2017.

The following press release from CQUniversity describes the key findings:

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.

"This, the sixth study of QNMU members, has provided an overview of working conditions and well-being of a cohort of nurses and midwives across multiple sectors," Professor Hegney says.

"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.

"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.

As well as adequate staffing and better security equipment, facilities and procedures on the wards,  it's also been suggested staff have appropriate resources to ensure safety when they are away from the clinic. It's also been suggested that people are held more accountable for acts of violence.

"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 any level of violence is unacceptable.

“We’re working hard to identify and implement solutions to prevent violence in our workplaces but we need the community to support us," Ms Mohle said.

“We take care of our patients, clients and residents – but we need the community to take care of us too.”

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.


Assault Avoidance Training for Nurses