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Thirty percent of nurses distressed with verbal and physical abuse

Almost one third of the nurses who participated in a large-scale study said that they had been victims of both physical and verbal abuse in the last 4 working weeks, so much so, they has even contemplated resignation, // according to research in the latest issue of the UK-based Journal of Advanced Nursing.

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. Sixty-nine percent of nurses who had been physically abused had been struck with a hand, fist or elbow and 34 percent had been bitten.

A further 49 percent said they had been pushed or shoved, 48 percent had been scratched and 38 percent said that someone had spat at them.

"We also discovered that that six percent had been choked and just under one percent 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 percent said that their home or family had also been threatened. Patients and visitors were the most likely people to abuse nurses, but four percent of nurses who reported physical abuse said that it was carried out by another nurse and three percent by a doctor.

When it came to verbal abuse, that percentage rose considerably, with 29 percent reporting abuse from a nurse colleague and 27 percent from a doctor. The results were collated from questionnaires sent to the 6,326 nurses registered with the Nursing Board of Tasmania in late 2002. Thirty-eight percent completed the survey,
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