Survey aims to improve legal response to occupational violence

Nurse researcher CJ Cabilan with Professor Robert Bowen after receiving funding from the PA Foundation. Image courtesy of the PA Foundation.

A survey addressing workplace occupational violence aims to clarify what discourages nurses from reporting incidents to legal authorities, according to the nurse researcher leading the project.

CJ Cabilan, a researcher who has previously published in the ANMJ on occupational violence, said while legislation is in place across the states and territories that addresses occupational violence with tougher sentencing’, the survey aimed to ensure such laws helped nurses.

“The elements of the survey are asking what types of support they [nurses] have received from their employer and the police in navigating the court system, and asking them how that can be better,” the researcher explained.

“The results of this survey… is this depth of understanding about the barriers of reporting and navigating the legal system, and also understanding how many nurses have experienced physical assault, how many then file a police complaint and then how many proceed to take the perpetrators to court.”

A recipient of funding from the Queensland-based Princess Alexandra Research Foundation (PA Foundation) for the project, Ms Cabilan will work with a legal expert as part of the process, which she says will improve the project’s reach.

“I think it is important so that the recommendations that we are making aren’t theoretical and are more pragmatic,” she said.

“Yes, it is sensitive to nurse’s needs, but it would also target what needs to change from a legal perspective. We find it beneficial to have cross-collaboration between nurses, academics and legal experts.”

Ms Cabilan understands that while nurses may be exhausted at the prospect of filling out another survey for research, she is optimistic that the profession’s participation in the project can help needed change in the workforce.

“Nurses are probably tired of completing surveys like this and seeing little change from it,” Ms Cabilan said.

“What I would like to tell nurses is that I’m hoping for this one to be different.”

“I would like this survey to be impactful, and I hope this signals a change to nurses, that the way we’re managing occupational violence is different this time.”

She also believes that their survey, which highlights the range of actions that fall under the umbrella of occupational violence, can also help to raise awareness within the profession that has, within the anecdotes she has heard, become used to the regularity of violent incidents.

“Because it happens so frequently as well, the tolerance of these events becomes higher and higher… It becomes normalised,” the researcher said.

“One of the things that we can accomplish as a result of this survey is to emphasise that this should not be tolerated.”

UPDATE: This research has now been published in Collegian  

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