Male nurses more likely to be assaulted by patients: StatsCan

Gender, experience and area of practice contribute to risk of physcial and emotional abuse
||Last Updated: 07/31/2009

More than one-third of nurses report being physically assaulted by a patient and nearly one-half report emotional abuse, with gender, years of experience and area of practice contributing to their risk of abuse, according to Statistics Canada.

"Factors related to on-the-job abuse of nurses by patients," based on data from the 2005 National Survey of the Work and Health of Nurses, found 34 per cent of nurses providing direct care in hospitals or long-term care facilities had been physically assaulted in the year prior to the survey and 47 per cent had experienced emotional abuse.

About 218,000 nurses were delivering direct patient care in hospitals or long-term care facilities in 2005 and 94 per cent were women.

Male nurses were more likely to experience abuse than female nurses, with 46 per cent of male nurses reporting physical assault by a patient compared to 33 per cent of female nurses. Also, 55 per cent of male nurses reported emotional abuse compared to 46 per cent of female nurses.

Previous research has proposed that male nurses have a greater exposure to violent patients and have a tendency to feel protective of female staff, putting themselves between female staff and violent patients.

Experience is also related to risk of assault. Less than one-third of nurses with at least 20 years of experience reported physical assault compared to 42 per cent of nurses with less than five years' experience.

Registered psychiatric nurses are particularly at risk for abuse with 47 per cent of them reporting physical assault and 72 per cent reporting emotional abuse.

Reports of abuse varied substantially by clinical area of practice. The percentages reporting physical assault were especially high among nurses working in geriatrics/long-term care (50 per cent), palliative care (47 per cent), psychiatry/mental health (44 per cent), critical care (44 per cent) and or the emergency room (42 per cent).

Emotional abuse was more common among nurses working in psychiatry/mental health (70 per cent), the emergency room (69 per cent), critical care (54 per cent), medicine/surgery (52 per cent) and geriatrics/long-term care (49 per cent).

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