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Mosaic of verbal abuse experienced by nurses in their everyday work

Authors


Correspondence to D. Jackson: e-mail: debra.jackson@uts.edu.au

Abstract

Aims

To report observational data collected as part of a multi-phased study examining violence in the health sector. The findings presented detail the nature of verbal abuse experienced by nurses during their everyday interactions with patient, their families, or companions.

Background

Nurses have unacceptably high levels of exposure to violence, which commonly includes verbal abuse. However, relatively little is known about the nature of verbal abuse against nurses.

Design

Observational design.

Methods

During 2010, 1150 hours of observation resulted in data on 220 patients displaying cues for physical violence and 210 qualitative observational notes. These observational notes constitute the data for this paper and reveal the nature of verbal abuse experienced by nurses in their everyday work.

Results

A mosaic of abuse was revealed through three major categories: a discourse of gendered verbal abuse that was largely: sexual; insults, ridicule, and unreasonable demands; and hostility, threats, and menacing language.

Conclusions

For the nurses observed in this study, everyday nursing practice occurred in a backdrop of verbal abuse and hostility, which had a strong theme of gendered and sexualized overtones. We recommend that interventions that target verbal abuse should address the gendered and sexualized nature of the abuse experienced by nurses.

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