A new report by RMIT University researchers has found the private residential aged care sector in Victoria lacks the knowledge and skills to prevent and reduce resident and resident family violence against staff.
The report, Worrying about being at work, found 93% of respondents had experienced physical violence and 44% had been threatened with a weapon. It also found 87% of nurses and carers had experienced sexual harassment by residents.
Most respondents had experienced violence at least twice, but more often than not four or more times.
Researchers said unsafe aged care workplaces negatively impacted nurses’ and personal care workers’ mental health. Importantly, staff who intended to leave because of violence still provided high quality resident care, ‘irrespective of feeling burnout’.
The independent report, was funded by the ANMF (Vic Branch), and is based on more than 800 surveys undertaken in 2020 and 60 interviews with managers, registered nurses, enrolled nurses, endorsed enrolled nurses and personal care workers.
ANMF will use the findings to encourage Victoria’s approximately 600 private aged care facilities to implement its 10 point plan to end violence and aggression: a guide for health facilities to protect nurses and carers.
It will also be used as evidence in enterprise bargaining negotiations to secure clauses that strengthen private aged care employers’ industrial and legal obligations and responsibilities to provide a safe workplace.
The plan has been included in the Victorian public sector nurses and midwives enterprise agreement since 2016. This EBA covers almost 180 public aged care facilities.
The ANMF 10 point plan provides employers with all the practical systems, processes and changes needed in 10 areas to prevent and reduce the opportunity for violence.
The 10 areas are: improving security; identifying risks to staff and others; including family in the development of patient care plans; reporting, investigating and acting when an incident happens; preventing violence through workplace design; providing post-incident support; applying an anti-violence approach across all disciplines; and empowering staff to expect a safe workplace.
ANMF (Vic Branch) Assistant Secretary Paul Gilbert said that this was further evidence of the dire consequences of the private aged care sector’s focus on understaffing to save costs.
“Being hurt at work is absolutely not just part of the job and there are ways to manage and prevent this resident behaviour,” he said.
Mr Gilbert said the report demonstrated the link between implementation of more elements of the 10 Point Plan and lower levels of workplace violence, and better mental health for aged care workers.
“In 2022 private aged care employers should not still be blaming staff for violence when personal care workers and nurses have no power to implement the systemic and structural changes required to make workplaces safe.
“The practical information is there; we just need private aged care leadership to champion a significant culture and knowledge change to stop the violence,” Mr Gilbert said.
“The really good news is that not every change required to prevent violence costs a lot of money and some cost nothing,” he said.
The ANMF 10 point plan to end violence and aggression: a guide for health services is available here