Health Care Workers' Experiences of Aggression

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Abstract

Primary Objective:

To identify the prevalence of patient aggression against health care workers, the consequences and coping mechanisms.

Design:

Retrospective cross-sectional design.

Subjects:

50 participants comprised 37 nurses, 1 ward staff, 12 allied health staff employed in two brain injury wards with experience ranging from 3 months to 34 years.

Setting:

Neurosciences and Brain Injury Rehabilitation wards of a metropolitan tertiary hospital in Brisbane.

Main Outcome Measures:

Researcher designed self-report questionnaire.

Results:

98% of respondents had experienced aggression during their health care careers with an average of 143.93 events. Physical injuries had been sustained by 40% of staff, psychological injury by 82%, but only 12% sought treatment. Verbal aggression related to receiving a psychological injury (r = 0.305, p < 0.05). Experiencing one type of aggression made it more likely the person would also experience the other types of aggression. Verbal aggression was correlated with physical aggression (r = 0.429, p < 0.01) and non-verbal aggression (r = 0.286, p < 0.05), and physical aggression was correlated with non-verbal aggression (r = 0.333, p < 0.05). The majority of staff used informal debriefing with others as their main coping strategy which was considered effective.

Conclusions:

Patient aggression is prevalent and of serious concern for staff working in hospital settings.

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