Australian College of Nursing says nurses are experiencing violence every day.
The organisation’s CEO Kylie Ward said she was hearing concerns from nurses across the country questioning how to deliver care while maintaining their safety.
"There's not a nurse that I've spoken to anywhere in my travels that hasn't experienced some sort of occupational violence," she said.
"The challenge for the nursing profession is balancing our duty of care, but equally needing to deliver care when people don't cope, or healthcare and medical professionals are being attacked."
South Australia’s health statistics show six code blacks were declared across the Riverland, Mallee and Coorong Local Health Network from January to the end of April this year. A code black is a call request for urgent or emergency assistance.
According to ABC News, across metropolitan and regional hospitals, 4,088 code blacks were called during the same period, 82 of which were attended to by South Australia Police.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) South Australia branch Chief Officer Elizabeth Dabars said, such events could be traumatising for the nurses involved, but the trauma extends beyond the actual event itself… in many cases they feel like their employer is simply not paying adequate regard to them.
The union has been campaigning for the Riverland General Hospital, alongside three other regional hospitals to have 24/7 onsite security guards.
Petitions supporting the proposal at the Berri and Murray Bridge hospitals have received nearly 1,000 signatures, while those at the Wallaroo and Port Pirie hospitals have received nearly 2,000.
Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network (RMCLHN) CEO Wayne Champion said staff had 24/7 access to on-call security guards rather than security that remained onsite.
"It is a judgement call. Is it worth having 24/7 paid security staff at a cost of three shifts a day, seven days a week at $375,000 or potentially $400,000 a year?" he said.
"This is for around 12 security incidents a year that are usually relatively short in duration."
Federal Minister for Health Mark Butler said all healthcare professionals including nursing staff had the right to work in a safe and healthy environment.
Being bitten, scratched, pinched, or assaulted in any other way is not acceptable, and can, under no circumstances, be seen as ‘part of the job’. When I was speaking to Richard Fox, my colleague and Operations Director at BitePRO® Protective Clothing about this subject, he said:
"It is standard procedure, in any healthcare facility, to conduct a risk assessment, highlighting any realistic risk employees are being exposed to i.e. being assaulted. The purpose of such is to identify very clearly a) the precise risk, b) the potential liability and c) the implementation of effective mitigating measures.
Recent incidents in the Australian healthcare system, comments made by senior officials within the College of Nursing and the Federation clearly highlight the scale of violence faced by healthcare professionals. This means the employer will already have identified a reasonable or realistic risk to the employee’s safety and well-being, and in most countries in the civilised world that means such risk must be addressed and mitigated."
The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) is committed to supporting and promoting safe work environments while improving policy and processes to eradicate occupational violence against nurses. The unacceptable experience of occupational violence against nurses is widespread. This is why, in 2021, the ACN established the Nurses and Violence Taskforce designed to develop policy and support advocacy.
About the Author
Robert Kaiser is the Founder and CEO of BitePRO®, the world's first specialised brand of protective clothing, offering dependable scratch and bite protection for healthcare workers, education professionals, and others working with individuals displaying challenging behaviour. Robert is a widely respected expert in the prevention of workplace violence related injuries. His written work has been published in several international industry leading publications.