Across the globe, workers in healthcare settings face a significant risk of client-initiated, occupational violence, whether those workers are operating in emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, community health clinics, social service offices, or people’s homes. Nor has the COVID-19 crisis arrested this alarming trend. As recently as late July 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted continuing reports of verbal harassment, discrimination, and physical violence against healthcare workers in the midst of the pandemic.
How pervasive is the issue in Australia, specifically? It’s been at crisis levels for some time now. Since 2009- 2010, the sector has consistently logged the highest number of serious workers’ compensation claims, with disproportionately high rates of homicide and other violent incidents. Nurse assaults, in particular, are at epidemic levels.
In fact, the Australian Institute of Criminology went so far as to designate nurses as the occupational group most at risk of workplace violence in the entire country.
Nurse assaults in Victoria increased a staggering 60 percent between 2015 and 2018iv and 50 percent in Western Australia from the first six months of 2017 to the same period in 2018. In hospitals, more generally, violent crime increased 50 percent in South Australia over ten years (2002-2012), while assaults and other acts of violence climbed up 48 and 44 percent in Queensland and New South Wales, respectively.
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