The Victorian branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is calling on the largest private and not-for-profit residential aged care groups to urgently adopt its 10-point plan to stop systemic resident and family violence against nurses and personal care workers.
A new report by RMIT University researchers has found the private residential aged care sector lacks the knowledge and skills to prevent and reduce resident and resident family violence against staff.
The report found 93 per cent of respondents had experienced physical violence and 44 per cent had been threatened with a weapon.
It also found 87 per cent 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, funded by the ANMF Vic branch, 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 they must implement 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 education and training to healthcare staff; integrating legislation, policies and procedures; proving post-incident support; applying an anti-violence approach across all disciplines; and empowering staff to expect a safe workplace.
“This is further evidence of the dire consequences of the private aged care sector’s focus on understaffing to save costs,” ANMF Vic branch assistant secretary Paul Gilbert said.
“It’s unacceptable for nurses and personal care workers to be hit, kicked, bitten, spat on or threated by residents.
“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.
ANMF is calling on aged care employers and their representatives such as Leading Aged Care Services Australia, WorkSafe Victoria, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, the Federal Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck to all urgently act so that nurses and personal care workers are safe at work.
“We want the large private aged care groups such as Bupa, Estia, Mecwacare, Calvary, Allity, Arcare, Bluecross, McKenzie and Regis, which have large human resources teams, to lead by example and implement the ANMF’s 10 point plan to make their workplaces safe,” Gibert said.
“The report demonstrates 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.
Gilbert said 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,” he 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 researchers were Prof Timothy Bartram, Dr Jillian Cavanagh, PhD Scholar Patricia Pariona-Cabrera, Dr Beni Halvorsen and Prof Pauline Stanton from RMIT University and Dr Jeff Shao from Deakin University.