Nursing: a dangerous career
26 July 2000
Mike Munro

You'd be forgiven for thinking that police and prison officers have the most dangerous jobs around, but a recent report has found nurses suffer more violence in the workplace.

The Australian Institute of Criminology report Violence in the Workplace found that nurses recorded the second-highest number of violence-related workers' compensation claims in 1995/96.

The number of incidents is thought to be even higher, as it's estimated that three out of four violent incidents against nurses are not reported.

Federal secretary of the Australian Nursing Federation Joy Iliffe says there's a passive acceptance from nurses themselves and the wider community that nurses will be exposed to violence at work.

Violence against nurses has moved from psychiatric wards to general patient rooms, the most prevalent being emergency rooms.

Incidents include being beaten or stabbed by aggressive, alcohol- or drug-intoxicated patients, sexual assault and verbal abuse.

The Nurses Federation says employers are able to sidestep the issue, as state and territory occupational health and safety legislation does not deal specifically with workplace violence.

Criminal law is the main recourse against individuals who inflict workplace violence, but human services departments and the nurses themselves are often reluctant to involve the police.

Jill Iliffe says that there needs to be a realisation from within some parts of the nursing profession and from employers that violence against nurses is unacceptable and in a lot of cases, preventable.