Verbal abuse accounts for 31.9% of violence in hospitals —Study

Although patient-related violence is usually excused on compassionate grounds, experts say that 38.5 per cent of the health workers are at risk of developing mental health problems such as irritability, agitation and aggressiveness due to workplace violence.

In a new study, the researchers said health workers in the Nigerian health care setting experience high workplace violence, with verbal abuse as the commonest type.

The researchers found that 40 per cent of the participants experienced at least one form of workplace violence within the year preceding the time of the study.

The most common form of workplace violence was verbal abuse (31.9 per cent) while the least common was sexual harassment (3.3 per cent). Most of them also considered physical violence, verbal abuse and bullying/mobbing as typical of their work setting while sexual harassment is the least common.

Individuals aged 21 to 30 years were 2.5 times more likely to experience workplace violence than the older workers while the female was 1.7 times more likely to experience workplace violence than the male.

The commonest perpetrators of physical violence and verbal abuses were the patients and patients’ relatives respectively while staff members were the main perpetrator of bullying/mobbing and sexual harassment.

The study said factors associated with workplace violence included young age, female sex and worry about workplace violence as well as widowed, separated or divorced marital status.

The 2019 study, published in the journal, Psychiatry Research, involved Dr Champion T. Seun-Fadipe at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospitals Complex, Ile-Ife, Osun State in conjunction with Adesanmi A. Akinsulore, and Olakunle A. Oginni.

This descriptive cross-sectional study which involved 380 health workers at the OAUTHC, Ile-Ife between May 2015 and December 2015 was to measure four forms of violence—physical, verbal, bullying and sexual.

The researchers said since workplace violence is common in the health care setting, a significant proportion of workers are at risk for developing psychiatric problems, including anxiety, depression, stress-related disorders, loss of self-confidence, irritability, aggression and psychoactive substance abuse.

According to them, these observations suggest the need for the regular mental health screening of health workers, as well as programmes aimed at preventing workplace violence in this setting.

Workplace violence is of particular importance in the healthcare sector, considering that violence in this sector constitutes one of every four of all workplace violence incidents.

It has also been reported that healthcare workers can develop a degree of compassion fatigue which may render them desensitised to the problems of patients and may lower their professional efficacy and satisfaction.