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Thirty percent of nurses distressed with verbal and physical abuse

which was also supported by Tasmania's Hobart Clinic, but when this was adjusted for the number of registered nurses actually working during this period, the figure was nearer 55 percent.

"The present findings point to a work environment that is both distressing and dangerous for staff" says Professor Farrell. "Eleven percent of nurses told us that they had left a post because of aggression and two percent had left nursing completely.

"Two-thirds of those who experienced aggression said that it affected their productively or led to errors in their work. Ten percent said it was the most distressing aspect of their work, after the 51 percent who cited workload as the biggest problem.

"Another key finding of this research was that although verbal and physical spreads across every branch of healthcare – from paediatrics to psychiatry and community services to critical care – few staff made their complaints official."

Workplace aggression is a world-wide problem and further research is needed to discover why levels are so high in modern healthcare settings, adds Professor Farrell, who was based at the University of Tasmania at the time of his research.

He and the other researchers believe that the restricted time frame of the study – four working weeks – and the fact that aggression was carefully defined, with clear distinctions between verbal and physical abuse, may have captured a greater range of incidents than previous studies.

"Our research shows that many nurses are working in environments in which they cannot provide the care that they think is best for patients. At the same time they have to contend with high levels of verbal and physical abuse" he says.

"It's not surprising that some nurses have left the profession altogether and many more are thinking about it. "We live in an era when employers are constantly being told that they have a duty of care for employees. It's a sad reality
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