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Verbal abuse experienced by nursing students


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Title. Verbal abuse experienced by nursing students

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to describe the nature, severity, frequency and sources of verbal abuse experienced by nursing students while gaining clinical experience.

Background.  Verbal abuse of healthcare workers is currently receiving considerable attention and nursing students have been identified as a group vulnerable to experiencing workplace verbal abuse.

Method.  Questionnaires were distributed in 2005 to a convenience sample of 156 third year nursing students from one pre-registration nursing programme in England. A total of 114 questionnaires were returned, giving a response rate of 73·0%.

Findings.  Experience of verbal abuse was reported by 45·1% of respondents, 34·5% had witnessed other students experiencing this and 65·5% reported that they were aware of other students experiencing verbal abuse. The incidents involved patients in 64·7% of cases, 15·7% involved visitors or relatives and 19·6% involved other healthcare workers. Students reported experiencing threats to kill them, racial abuse and sexually oriented verbal abuse, with the majority of incidents occurring in general medical, mental health and general surgical clinical areas.

Conclusion.  Education and healthcare providers should prepare students to manage negative verbal exchanges during nursing education, and policies and support networks relating to managing verbal abuse in clinical practice should be available to nursing students.

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