Occupational violence and aggression

Exposure to aggression or violence at work is terrible for anyone. When you work in a caring profession such as nursing or midwifery it is difficult to reconcile that you would be exposed to workplace violence.

Nobody — including nurses and midwives — should be injured or assaulted at work.

If you are concerned about occupational violence and aggression and would like some support, you can call our confidential support line 24/7 on 1800 667 877.
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What is occupational violence and aggression?

If you experience aggression or violence at work, there are things you can do to look after yourself and your colleagues.

Being informed, talking to your manager and seeking support as soon as an incident of aggression or violence occurs leads to better health outcomes.

Occupational aggression and violence refers to any incident in which an employee is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances arising out of, or during the course of, their work and includes:

  • verbal, physical or psychological abuse
  • threats or other intimidating behaviours
  • physical attacks, such as hitting, pinching or scratching
  • aggravated assault
  • threats with a weapon or objects, or
  • sexual harassment and sexual assault.

You may be the direct target or witness violence against somebody else.

Work-related violence on nurses, midwives and students may cause immediate harm or have cumulative long-term implications for health and wellbeing. It is essential that workplaces adopt a zero-tolerance approach to occupational violence and show strong leadership on this issue.

Occupational health and safety policies and procedures, audits, risk assessments, staff training and comprehensive incident reporting systems are vital to reducing aggression and violence in the workplace.

While nurses and midwives take on the role of caring for others, it is crucial they look after themselves and their colleagues. The health and wellbeing of nurses and midwives is an important part of a quality health service.

Occupational violence prevention: What can you do?

If you or a colleague experience occupational aggression or violence it is important to know how to manage it and any emotional responses you may experience.

Here are some tips that may assist:

  • attend aggression prevention and management training provided by your workplace
  • read your organisation’s policies and procedures on preventing and managing occupational violence
  • avoid working in isolation
  • undertake risk assessments to proactively identify the potential for violence and be part of the process to put prevention strategies in place
  • report potential risks to your manager and the occupational health and safety representative
  • develop effective communication skills that will equip you to prevent aggression from escalating and create boundaries that create two-way communication
  • familiarise yourself with your organisation’s incident reporting policies and procedures
  • report and record all incidents and near misses
  • engage in debriefing and support with your manager and colleagues
  • seek support from your organisation’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider — if this is not offered request it
  • let your family or friends know what happened so they can support you, and
  • look after yourself and your colleagues.

Ensure that any incident of aggression is documented so that you and your colleagues can access ongoing support. Even if you don’t think you need support immediately after the incident, it is important to acknowledge lingering emotional responses and seek support.

What can I do next?

Nurse & Midwife Support is here to talk if you have experienced workplace violence or aggression. Our service provides free and confidential support 24/7, to nurses, midwives and students Australia wide. If you would like to speak to someone call 1800 667 877, or you can request support via email.

If you would like to know a bit more about the service before getting in contact — take a look through accessing support.

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