Two-thirds of the 2,407 nurses who took part in the survey, led by the University of Tasmania and supported by the Australian Nursing Federation, reported some form of abuse during the period covered. This ranged from being sworn at, slapped and spat upon to being bitten, choked and stabbed. The abused nurses, who all worked in Tasmania, reported an average of four verbal incidents and between two to three physical incidents.

69 per cent of nurses who had been physically abused had been struck with a hand, fist or elbow and 34 per cent had been bitten. A further 49 per cent said they had been pushed or shoved, 48 per cent had been scratched and 38 per cent said that someone had spat at them. “We also discovered that six per cent had been choked and just under one per cent had been stabbed”, adds lead author Professor Gerald A Farrell, now based at La Trobe University School of Nursing and Midwifery in Victoria, Australia.

Verbal abuse was most likely to take the form of rudeness, shouting, sarcasm and swearing. Two per cent said that their home or family had also been threatened. Patients and visitors were the most likely people to abuse nurses, but four per cent of nurses who reported physical abuse said that it was carried out by another nurse and three per cent by a doctor.

When it came to verbal abuse, that percentage rose considerably, with 29 per cent reporting abuse from a nurse colleague and 27 per cent from a doctor. “11 per cent of nurses told us that they had left a post because of aggression and two per cent had left nursing completely. Two-thirds of those who experienced aggression said that it affected their productivity or led to errors in their work. Ten per cent said it was the most distressing aspect of their work, after the 51 per cent who cited workload as the biggest problem,” explains Farrell.; Source: Blackwell Publishing