A survey showing 38% of public hospital staff had been
assaulted in the previous year highlights matters requiring
''urgent attention'', University of Otago researchers say.
The survey, carried out as part of a study into patient
aggression experienced by staff in a public hospital,
included responses from 227 people and focused on healthcare
staff working at a single district health board.
Responses showed 93% of the surveyed healthcare workers had
experienced verbal anger at work in the previous year,
physical aggression was experienced by 65%, and 38% had
experienced a physical assault during that period.
A total of 43% of nurses reported they had been physically
assaulted during the previous 12 months, compared with 14% of
It is understood the research was undertaken at Dunedin
Hospital, but researchers said the survey had been undertaken
on a confidential basis and, accordingly, they could not
identify the participating hospital.
Working in a healthcare setting was ''a known risk factor for
violence'' internationally, the study said.
But before the University of Otago study, little was known
about aggression experienced by healthcare workers at a New
Zealand district health board.
Dr Nicola Swain, a senior lecturer in the Otago department of
psychological medicine and the study's first author, said it
showed a higher level of physical assault on healthcare staff
in this country (38%), than in a study of healthcare workers
at a UK general hospital (27%).
Incidents involving aggression were not confined to
alcohol-related issues involving emergency departments, she
''It's concerning ... They [staff] have the right to a safe
workplace,'' she said in an interview.
''I'd like to achieve greater understanding for healthcare
workers, and the great job that they do,'' she said.
The study noted it was ''possible to improve training to
reduce aggression'', and future research was envisaged which
could identify if ''communication skill interventions'' could
New Zealand Nurses Organisation associate industrial services
manager Glenda Alexander, of Dunedin, said assaults on nurses
were always a concern, and could have wide-ranging effects on
them and their family life.
The study is published in the New Zealand Medical Journal
Fellow authors were Otago researchers Dr Chris Gale and Dr