Occupational Violence in an Australian Healthcare Setting: Implications for Managers

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARYOccupational violence is a worldwide, multifaceted problem affecting all industries, including healthcare. We conducted a cross-sectional survey of the experiences of 158 allied health professionals, 135 doctors, and 1,229 nurses working in a rural area in eastern Australia. Response rates were 72 percent for allied health professionals and 62 percent for general practitioners (GPs) and nurses. Proportionately more nurses experienced occupational violence than did allied health providers and GPs. During the past 12 months (August 2001 to July 2002), 68 percent of nurses, compared with 47 percent of allied health providers and 48 percent of GPs, reported violence. All three professional groups indicated that the most distressing occupational violence was perpetrated by patients, followed by patients' relatives.The most frequent form of occupational violence was verbal abuse, followed by threatening behavior, physical violence, and obscene behavior. No statistically significant difference in the prevalence of violence was found among the different allied health professional disciplines or fields of nursing. Health services management strategies addressing occupational violence need to be comprehensive and multidisciplinary in scope. Strategies to minimize violence need to focus on resource allocation, cultural change, and perseverance. Systems to monitor violence are a priority. Further research into the determinants of this pattern of violence is required.

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