The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) has commended strides with SafeWork NSW, to implement new measures to prevent occupational violence in aged-care facilities, including a leadership development program.

Registered Nurse, Radha Kumar, said that physical violence against aged care nurses is a primary factor behind their intention to leave the aged-care sector.

“Nurses are bitten, struck, and spat on regularly by elderly residents, usually ones with dementia who may feel agitated or confused,” Ms Kumar said.

“If a nurse were to be attacked or knocked unconscious, it will be hours before any help arrives.”

“Many of the attacks and abuse were not reported to authorities or even the managers at the facility. In fact, police are practically never involved when it comes to elder violence. Many nurses choose to not report violence or abuse they experience because they are used to the behaviour, or they do not believe their case would lead to any concrete measures, “ Ms Kumar said.

Aged-Care Manager, Sangeeta Prasad, said there is a common link between physical violence and the mental health of nurses working in aged care.

“Nurses deserve to feel safe at work and unless there’s urgent attention towards protecting the well-being and mental health of our nurses, they will continue to be injured and leave, which will result in staff shortfalls,” Mrs Prasad said.

“We have had aged-care nurses providing reports on a range of problems that have affected their personal lives following an involvement in an episode of violence, some of which were ongoing in nature, for example, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

Mrs Prasad said aged-care nurses need to discuss with their supervisor any concerns they have about working with particular residents and to take appropriate action to manage risks and follow procedures around individual residents.

“Management needs to ensure nurses are appropriately reporting incidents so that action can be taken to support them. Aged-care nurses should be provided guidance on what to do should when such behaviours occur, including seeking assistance on how to de-escalate an aggressive behaviour episode and how to respond by removing themselves from such a situation, “ Mrs Prasad said.

The NSWNMA will continue to provide assistance to aged-care nurses, ensuring issues pertaining to violence are urgently and comprehensively addressed. The NSWNMA also wants a review of the current employee assistance program to better support staff following traumatic incidents.