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Original Research

Voices from the bush: remote area nurses prioritise hazards that contribute to violence in their workplace

Submitted: 20 October 2011
Revised: 8 February 2012
Published: 7 May 2012

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Author(s) : McCullough KM, Williams AM, Lenthall S.

Kylie McCulloughAnne WilliamsSue Lenthall

Citation: McCullough KM, Williams AM, Lenthall S.  Voices from the bush: remote area nurses prioritise hazards that contribute to violence in their workplace. Rural and Remote Health 12: 1972. (Online) 2012. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au

ABSTRACT

Introduction:  Remote Area Nurses (RANs) in Australia frequently encounter hazards that contribute to violence in the work place. Resources to deal with this problem are limited.
Methods:  Adopting a risk management approach and using the Delphi method, a panel of expert RANs (n=10) from geographically diverse communities across Australia, identified and prioritised hazards that increase the risk of violence to nurses.
Results:  This descriptive study found that RANs encounter a wide variety of hazards from a variety of sources. Environmental hazards are complicated by living in remote areas and practicing in different locations. Relationships between the nurse and the community can be complex and lack of experience and organisational support may contribute to an increased risk of violence. Hazards prioritised as ‘major’ or ‘extreme’ risks included: clinic maintenance and security features, attending to patients at staff residences, RAN inexperience and lack of knowledge about the community, as well as intoxicated clients with mental health issues. A work culture that accepts verbal abuse as 'part of the job' was identified as a significant organisational risk to RANs. A lack of action from management when hazards are identified by clinic staff and insufficient recognition of the risk of violence by employers were also significant hazards.
Conclusions:  Further consideration of the hazards described in this study following the risk management process, may provide opportunities to reduce the risk of violence towards RANs. Proposed control measures should be developed in consultation with RANs and the remote communities they work in.

Key words: Delphi, occupational violence, remote area nursing, risk assessment, safety.

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