Tougher Laws, Too Few Prosecutions? A Mixed Methods Study of Nurses’ Experiences Regarding the Reporting of Occupational Violence to the Police

CJ Cabilan*, Chantelle Judge, Rachael M Field, Rob Eley, Amy Johnstone

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Problem
Assaults on nurses by patients are common. To deter occupational violence against nurses, assaults attract penalties of longer imprisonment in many jurisdictions (domestically and internationally). However, the deterrent value of harsher penalties has been questioned when many assaults are underreported.

Aim
To identify the barriers and enablers to the reporting and prosecution of assaults experienced by nurses.

Methods
In this study participants were recruited using a snowballing technique through health workforce emails, social media channels, and professional organisations. The investigator-developed survey prompted for categorical and open-ended responses. Descriptive and qualitative content analyses were used to analyse the study data.

Findings
Of the N = 275 respondents, n = 237 nurses had been assaulted at work. Assaulted nurses were typically female, over 31 years old, had more than five years of nursing experience, and worked in an emergency department. Overwhelmingly, nurses indicated receiving poor support when they wanted to report an assault to the police. Dominant themes (N = 6) identified systemic barriers that hinder criminal reporting, which was found to be a consequence of organisational and policing lapses, and self-limiting nursing culture.

Discussion
This study identified several barriers for nurses to report and prosecute assaultive patients in Australia. The barriers point to a strong imperative for organisations that employ nurses and police to fulfil their responsibilities to enable and support assaulted nurses to prosecute.

Conclusion
The study findings led to important recommendations for organisations and police to support, encourage, and empower nurses to prosecute assaultive patients, and ultimately deter violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-692
Number of pages7
JournalCollegian
Volume30
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

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