Jul 06, 2017

Work-Related Violence in Aged Care Is Never Ok

Aged care workers’ primary role is to care for elderly residents. They have a large responsibility; ensuring that the residents are fed, medicated and bathed while also giving them emotional support and companionship.

And yet, so many aged care workers are faced with workplace violence and aggression.  

A new statistic released by WorkSafe Victoria shows that up to 95% of healthcare workers have experienced verbal or physical assault while on the the job.

Healthcare workers cover a broad range of employees, however there is a particularly high concentration of aggression faced by nurses, aged care workers and paramedics.

Unacceptable behaviour can have a negative impact on the physical and mental well being of our healthcare workers.

Examples of work-related violence can include:

  • aggressive gestures or expressions such as eye rolling and sneering
  • verbal abuse such as yelling, swearing and name calling
  • intimidating physical behaviour such as standing in a healthcare worker’s personal space or standing over them
  • physical assault such as biting, spitting, scratching, pushing, shoving, tripping and grabbing
  • extreme acts of violence and aggression such as hitting, punching, strangulation, kicking, personal threats, threats with weapons, sexual assault.

workplace violence

Aged care can be challenging as the violence and aggression can come from the residents themselves, who may act our due to frustrations or confusion, or even their families who may have unreasonable expectations of what an employee can provide them.

Regardless of the reason, it is never acceptable. No aged care worker should ever feel that violence and aggression is ‘part of the job’ even when it’s committed by people whose clinical condition may be affecting their judgement.

Incidents of violence and aggression are currently chronically under-reported. No matter what the situation, it’s important to report violence and aggression so that the employer knows about it and can take steps to better prevent and manage it in the future.

There are preventative actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of violence and aggression in the workplace, and it is important that staff know what to do when you witness or experience these behaviours.

Such measures include developing and promoting health and safety policy and key initiatives, setting health and safety objectives and accountability, ensuring effective health and safety systems are in place to identify and control risk and supporting staff development in de-escalation and processes for early intervention and management.

It should also be the employer’s responsibility to provide the victim and other colleagues with appropriate support.

The process for reporting health and safety incidents can vary between workplaces – it’s essential that staff talk to their manager to confirm the reporting process at their workplace.

To bring awareness to how common occupational violence is in the health sector, including aged care, WorkSafe Victoria have launched a series of advertisements that show a rather confronting reality.  

There’s a lesson the be learnt for everyone in the community. When people imagine aggressive or violent incidents happening to healthcare workers, most would think ‘I would never do that’.

But when you or your loved ones are placed in a stressful situation you may act in ways you’re not proud of.

Even acts that many may consider ”small’ like eye rolling, sneering, talking down to or raising your voice at healthcare workers can have a major impact on their mental health.

To the family member, it might be a one-off incident, but the nurse or carer might be treated like this every day.

It is advised that if you find yourself getting overwhelmed, try to remove yourself from the situation until you can be in a better frame of mind.

And should you witness an act of aggression or violence, do not get involved – report it immediately to someone at the healthcare facility, or call the police.

Aged care workers go to work everyday with the purpose to help care for people, they should never be met with violence or aggression when they are simply doing their job.

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  1. I recently retired from aged care after 15 yrs. I experienced in my time many acts of aggression towards myself and others. When reported nothing seems to be done and it is put down a “behaviours “ in follow up. If a carer tries to restrain resident to prevent further assault they are reprimanded for “restraining a resident” and often lose their job. Often any compensation for injuries is long drawn out process.

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