Reporting behaviours of nursing students who have experienced verbal abuse


T. Ferns: e-mail:


Title. Reporting behaviours of nursing students who have experienced verbal abuse.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study exploring the reporting behaviours of nursing students who had experienced verbal abuse while gaining clinical experience.

Background.  Under-reporting of incidents of verbal abuse has been identified internationally as a limitation leading to incomplete data collection when researching aggression in healthcare facilities. This can call into question conclusions, recommendations and policy initiatives based on the research.

Method.  Questionnaires were distributed in 2005 to a convenience sample of 156 third year nursing students from one preregistration nursing programme in England. A total of 114 questionnaires were returned, giving a response rate of 73·0%. Fifty-one students (44·7%) reported verbal abuse and all of these gave details of the behaviours concerned.

Results.  Thirty-two students (62·7%) of those reporting verbal abuse) stated that they had reported the incident and 19 (37·3%) of respondents stated that they had not. Only four incidents resulted in formal documentation. The most frequent feelings reported by respondents were embarrassment and feeling sorry for the abuser.

Conclusion.  Failure to document experiences of verbal abuse formally was prevalent and reporting practices were variable. Both higher education institutions and healthcare providers should consider establishing process for formal reporting and documenting of incidents of verbal abuse during nurse education, and students should have access to formal support services.