Violence has become so commonplace in emergency departments that staff have become apathetic about reporting it, a Christchurch study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal has revealed.
Led by ED nurse researcher Sandra Richardson, the study found there were 107 reports of violence in May 2014 in Christchurch Hospital, including 19 physical assaults, but no incident forms were submitted that same month.
Dr Richardson said staff felt reporting violence was often a waste of time as they didn’t think anything would change, Newshub reported.
She told the NZ Herald she had been struck, swung at, and vomited on by patients during her 30 years in the profession.
“You wouldn’t work in a bank or supermarket and know that people are going to come in a swear at you, spit at you, threaten to kill you or follow you home,” she said.
Dr Paul Quigley, who works in Wellington Regional Hospital ED, told RNZ’s Morning Report the verbal abuse could be difficult to deal with.
“You can hear the abuse starting in the ambulance bay and the threats and the foul language and often it’s attempts at physical violence, and it just carries on into the department.”
Hospitals said security had been beefed up in recent years, staff resilience training had increased and many had tried to make the reporting process easier.
The study was extensively covered by national media, including:
Health Central: Alarming levels of ED violence now normalised and shrugged off, finds NZ study
RNZ: Christchurch Hospital staff spat at, pinched and slapped – survey
NZ Herald: Emergency department violence hugely under-reported as nurses don’t have time to make complaints
Newshub: Violence in emergency departments woefully under-reported – study
Stuff: Study finds emergency department violence going under-reported
RNZ Morning Report: Hospital staff reluctant to report emergency dept abuse – study