A pathway to a healthier you

Occupational violence

Workplace violence is on the rise. Unfortunately it is one of the most significant and hazardous issues faced by nurses and midwives globally. Patients – those we care for – are the most common source of this violence (WHO, 2023).  

Nurse Manager Sheryl Gore is still supporting one of her staff who was assaulted on site while coming in for a night shift. She was kicked in the back and the nape of her neck.  

“She’s still going through counselling. She’s still afraid to go out. Just going out and buying groceries is an ordeal for her.” 

Common reactions to violent incidents at work

Violence includes a range of behaviours from verbal abuse and threats, sexual harassment through to physical assaults. It involves both explicit and implicit challenges to the wellbeing, safety or health of nurses and midwives at work. 

Occupational violence can leave you injured, traumatised, and distressed emotionally. It increases job stress and absenteeism. 

The most common type of impact is psychological, and this can include flashbacks and nightmares. It’s not unusual to experience feelings of being alone or isolation, loss of confidence and withdrawal. It can lead to anxiety and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). 

Higher-risk jobs and sectors

While research shows violence is rife across all sectors, those who work in emergency, mental health and aged care have been reported to be at highest risk. Also those in their early career and men. 

Working in the ED, NT nurse Hannah has been regularly assaulted, including having been spat in the eye. “I often feel in a vulnerable and unsafe position myself because of the overcrowding and all the people that have to come into the emergency room.”  

Down played, under-reported, never acceptable

While potentially life-threatening, occupational violence is still often downplayed as ‘part of the job’ and incidents of violence are greatly under-reported. 

Impacts of violence

Don’t experience this alone. Talk confidentially to an experienced nurse or midwife who can offer some strategies to help. 

Occupational violence in any context is never acceptable and it requires a whole of system approach to eliminate, including commitment from employers to safe work environments. 

Occupational violence: incidents involving work-related abuse, threats, or assaults among health workers including physical, sexual, verbal and psychological abuse and workplace harassment (World Health Organization) 

Up to 95% of healthcare workers having experienced verbal or physical assault (Work Safe Victoria 2020). 

Between 8% and 38% of health workers suffer physical violence at some point in their careers. Many more are threatened or exposed to verbal aggression (World Health Organization, 2023) 

Almost one in two nurses and midwives have experienced of workplace violence. Only 33% of staff subject to physical abuse said they reported all episodes (NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, 2019). 

Violence against health workers is unacceptable. It has not only a negative impact on the psychological and physical wellbeing of healthcare staff, but also affects their job motivation.
World Health Organization