Violence ‘life-changing’ for hospital staff

A Bendigo nurse says occupational violence is “common” among health workers, with some even forced out of the profession after experiencing repeated assaults.

Bendigo Health nurse Damien Hurrell said he had been hit, spat on and verbally abused multiple times during his 15-year career, and that for some the experience could be “life-changing”.

“It makes you question why you’re here and why you’re doing what you’re doing, so it’s a confronting issue and I can well understand why people don’t want to deal with it or find it difficult to come to work every day knowing that might happen to them,” he said.

The comments come after Bendigo Health revealed more than 400 incidents of occupational violence against staff at the hospital were reported in the 2015-16 financial year.

But while the abuse could be hard to take, Mr Hurrell said he was careful not to blame the patients, who were invariably under a large amount of stress.

“I always try to remember why the person who’s lashing out or is being aggressive is feeling that way and try to make sure we’re doing everything we can to manage that,” he said.

“If a person comes to hospital with an expectation that something will be fixed and it takes a long time I can understand they get frustrated and angry, so we need to make sure our hospitals are working to make sure patients are well informed about what’s going on and responsive to their needs.”

Mr Hurrell said identifying risk and good reporting practices were essential in combatting the issue, but were not enough on their own.

“We need to have systems in place that support and encourage the resolution of these issues before it escalates to a point where violence occurs,” he said.

Mr Hurrell said despite the hundreds of incidents reported at the hospital, Bendigo Health was proactive in addressing the issue.

“There’s still work that needs to be done and I’m looking forward to working with Bendigo Health as a [union] representative to ensure we have the best possible plans going forward to look after both our staff and our patients,” he said.