Friday, July 9, 2010

Patient Abuse - Can You Take It

One of the most daunting challenges faced by both inexperienced and experienced nurses alike is patient abuse. Abuse of patients by medical staff is uncommon, but widely reported. Less widely addressed are the abuses dealt out to nursing staff by patients. An inexperienced nurse entering the profession for the first time must develop strategies for dealing with this aggression. If they don’t, they run the risk of becoming disillusioned with their profession.

Abuse as “part of the job”.

A study conducted by Curtin University of Technology reported in May of 2010 that two thirds of all nurses had experienced violence in the workplace. These incidents were only reported one in six times. 92 per cent involved verbal abuse, 69 per cent physical threats and 52 per cent involved physical assault. On average, the nurses were confronted with 46 violent events each year. That’s nearly one incident a week.

Why would so many incidents go unreported?

Nurses are generally motivated by a desire to help others. This makes it less likely they will report incidences of abuse by patients. They believe the abusive environment is a part of the job.

Moreover, nurses have often invested a great deal of time and money in obtaining their nursing degrees and licenses. If they’ve taken out thousands of dollars in student loans, they won’t be able to simply walk away from their chosen career.

Abuse contributes to the nursing shortage.

Statistics show that there are enough people in the United States with an RN certification to solve the nursing shortage two times over. There is a strong possibility that the violence experienced by nurses during their workday might be linked to the reluctance of licensed RN’s to work in a healthcare setting.

Having an adequate number of nurses on staff is crucial to preserving patient health. Patients die when there are too few nurses to care for their needs. Measures seeking to address the nursing shortage should start in hospitals and health care institutions. We should expect patients to treat the nursing staff with the same respect they would give to any other professional. If nurses are expected to simply stand by and take the abuse dished out by difficult patients, the nursing profession will continue to experience a shortage of willing volunteers.

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at onlinedegrees.org, researching areas of accredited online degrees. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

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