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Keywords:

  • learning disability;
  • multiprofessional;
  • nursing;
  • therapeutic relationship;
  • violence;
  • (zero) tolerance

Aims and objectives

To explore this complexity further, enhancing understanding of professionals' experience of violence and reasons for non-reporting with regard to people with a learning disability.

Background

This article reports on a qualitative follow-up study to a whole-population survey investigating the under-reporting of violence within one learning disability service. The survey had identified a pronounced level of under-reporting but suggested an unexpected degree of complexity around the issue, which warranted further study.

Design

A qualitative research design was employed.

Methods

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 22 professionals working in learning disability services; data were subsequently transcribed verbatim and subject to stringent thematic analysis.

Results

The findings confirmed that the decision to report an incident or not was complicated by professional interpretation of violence. Three themes were produced by the analysis: the reality of violence, change over time and (zero) tolerance.

Conclusion

The study indicates that both experience of violence and ways of understanding it in relation to learning disability are shared across professional groups, although nurses are both more inured and generally more accepting of it. The study suggests that the relationship between learning disability nurses and service users with a propensity for violence is complicated by issues of professional background and concerns about the pertinence of zero tolerance.

Relevance to clinical practice

The availability of effective protocols and procedures is important, but services need also to acknowledge the more ambiguous aspects of the therapeutic relationship to fully understand under-reporting of service user violence in the context of learning disability.