Health Care Workers' Experiences of Aggression

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Primary Objective:

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


Retrospective cross-sectional design.


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.


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

Main Outcome Measures:

Researcher designed self-report questionnaire.


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.


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

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