Ironically, the most violent workplace in Australia today is the healthcare in-dustry. Nurses encounter verbal and physical violence from patients and visitors in their workplace on a daily basis. Nurses who work in emergency and mental health departments are especially at risk of violence. The Australian media, such as television news reports and daily newspapers, frequently reports on incidents where violent pa-tients attack nurses—leaving the nurses with physical and emotional scars.
Workplace violence is a significant cause of death and injury in many parts of the world, and in Australia alone the estimated cost of absenteeism and lost productiv-ity as a result of workplace violence is over $AUD 13 billion per year (Farrell, Bobrowski, & Bobrowski, 2006). Workplace violence in the healthcare industry is in-creasing, and has significant long-term consequences on both individuals and our health system. Violence affects nurses’ personal lives, mental health, safety and pro-fessionalism by reducing their ability to offer effective patient care. Experienced nurses are leaving the healthcare industry due to patient violence.
There is a lack of qualitative Australian studies on nurses’ perceptions of work-place violence. In fact, there are no qualitative studies in Queensland, and only a few quantitative studies on workplace violence in Queensland hospitals and other healthcare sectors. However, no studies have been conducted on workplace violence in any of Queensland’s regional areas, or its prevalence within the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). My current research has investigated the issue of violence towards nurses in a regional public hospital of Queensland, and fills this gap in the literature. The Occu-pational Health Framework by Levin, Hewitt, and Misner (1998) assists in conceptu-alising the complex nature of workplace violence, and therefore was chosen to guide the investigation of my research questions, help with the data analyses and clarify the factors that contribute to assault injuries.
My current doctoral research has contributed to the overall body of knowledge on workplace violence within the healthcare sector, as it examines nurses’ perceptions of physical and verbal violence perpetrated by patients and visitors, and the ensuing impact on nurses—including their ability to care for patients. My research also inves-tigates nurses’ perceptions of current workplace violence strategies and support services.
I collected data using mixed methodology studies: a qualitative study of three focus group interviews of N=23 nurses, and a quantitative survey of N=98 nurses who work in three ‘high risk’ units: the Emergency Department (ED), Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Mental Health Department (MHD) in a Queensland regional public hospi-tal, Australia.
My findings expose high levels of workplace violence in these hospital depart-ments and the effect of workplace violence on nurses, witnesses and the interaction with patients. The findings describe the nurses’ perceptions and recommend improve-ments to manage violence and the support within the hospital, all of which aim to improve nurses’ work environments and quality of life. Implementing my research suggestions on hospital workplace safety and support services improvements would support nurse retention within the healthcare system, and ultimately, improve healthcare standards and patient wellbeing.
The research could be expanded to include all the hospital departments in a regional public hospital, to provide clearer comparison between departments. Further recommendations might be wider studies of other public and private hospitals in re-gional, rural and metropolitan areas to get a better understanding of the extent of vio-lence in different locations.