Warning: This post deals with mental health and may be triggering for some readers.
Screamed at. Spat on. Punched. Called a “fat sl*t”. Degraded. Threatened. Stalked. Sexually harassed and assaulted. Strangled… and worse.
These are just some of the things our healthcare workers have to deal with at work. Every single day.
Violence and aggression in the healthcare sector happens. Every shift, the people who dedicate their lives to helping us are abused, by us, for doing their jobs – it’s called occupational violence and aggression (OVA), and it needs to stop.
It’s not just the more extreme acts mentioned above. Any of us could be guilty of committing OVA when we’re under stress, without even realising. It’s a passive aggressive comment about how long you’ve been waiting to be seen by a doctor. It’s an abusive insult muttered when the ICU staff can’t let you see your loved at that very moment. It’s lashing out at the paramedic who’s trying to resuscitate your friend. It’s hurting a nurse because you’re hurting inside.
Eye rolling, yelling, swearing, derogatory and abusive language, threatening people, making aggressive gestures or intimidating someone – it’s all unacceptable behaviour that has a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of our healthcare workers – and it’s never OK.
Being exposed to violent or aggressive acts isn’t in any healthcare worker’s job description.
Mamamia spoke to five healthcare workers about their experiences of violence and aggression at work.
Their words are confronting and deeply sad, and will make you understand what it would be like to walk in their shoes, just for a step.
These people are here to help us and our loved ones in our most desperate times, and the awful reality is that they are being exposed to violent or aggressive acts in return, all the time.
But in spite of their experiences, the dedication and commitment our healthcare workers have to helping people at their worst is endlessly inspiring. And hopefully, if we find ourselves in moments of stress around them, we can take a step back and remember they’re here to help.
These are their stories:
Jen, Registered Nurse at a major public hospital
“I’ve been working in healthcare for over 15 years and as a nurse for the past 10. Violence and aggression is a massive part of my day to day job and to be honest, it has become less common to get through even one shift without experiencing some sort of abuse. Most commonly, it’s verbal abuse, although I and many others do experience physical aggression.
“It’s hard to pinpoint a one-off story as it is an almost daily occurrence. We are fluent in de-escalation techniques and put them into practice as much as any other skill. Though when that fails, the duress alarm and security guards are often our heroes.
“Only today, I was only called a sl*t by a patient. The other day, it was a big fat blonde b*tch. While those statements are normally considered pretty offensive, I still classify that behaviour as relatively minor compared to other situations.