We’ve become used to hearing stories about how our healthcare professionals, including nurses, are routinely subjected to abuse in the workplace. In most environments, this would not be tolerated but seems to be on the increase in our hospitals, particularly where our A&E departments are concerned.
- According to Nursing Times, as many as 90% of nurses have experienced violence and verbal abuse while trying to do their job.
- In 2012, The Telegraph reported that there were some 163 attacks on staff every day and the general consensus is that this situation is no better today.
- It’s not just a problem that is particular to the UK. A study in America at the turn of the millennium found similar results.
- The UK, however, currently has one of the highest incidences of violence against nurses in Europe.
But how does abuse affect our healthcare providers and where can they find help and support if they need it?
While the NHS has had a zero-tolerance approach to violence and abusive behaviour since 1999, instances of attacks appear to have remained disappointingly high. Abuse come from a variety of sources including patients and relatives who have mental health problems or simply believe they are not getting the treatment they deserve, as well as those under the influence of alcohol.
Areas such as A&E are at particular risk because of the emergency situations they face, the fact that there is all too often overcrowding and the emotional level many people are operating at when they arrive. While hospitals are under increasing pressure, it’s not just problems with patients and relatives that are at the heart of verbal and physical abuse. The NHS and even private hospitals are not immune from instances of bullying within the workplace.
We expect a lot from our nurses. Often, they’re working long shifts between 12 and 14 hours and managing traumas and medical problems that require urgent attention. We expect them to do this with all the compassion and professionalism they can muster. It’s no wonder that many nurses and other healthcare professionals are revaluating their career choices and deciding whether they want to stay in the profession at all. That goes for people working in a wide range of areas from A&E, the NHS to nursing homes and private care.
While organisations such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council have put in measures to handle instances of verbal or physical abuse in the workplace, there doesn’t seem to have been much change for the better over the last decade or so. The support that nurses get is also still largely piecemeal and varies from trust to trust.
Just like any other group of people, nurses, midwives and healthcare workers need support and can easily find themselves isolated. There’s no doubt that institutions such as the NHS and all the other Nursing Agencies have to do a lot more to protect nurses and other professionals while they are trying to help the people in their care.
The good news is that charitable organisations such as the Cavell Nurses’ Trust have long been providing support for a range of healthcare professionals. Not only do they help when nurses are suffering from hardship and can’t make ends meet, they assist individuals come to terms with illness, life changing experiences and the impact of violence and abuse in the workplace.