Nav: Home

Paying attention to complaints can protect nurses from violence

February 20, 2020

Complaints from patients and their family members could signal future violence against nurses and should not be ignored, suggests new research from the University of British Columbia.

By tracking and addressing such complaints, hospitals and other health care organizations can help curb aggressive behaviour towards their employees.

"Health care workers are four times more likely to face physical and emotional abuse on the job as workers in other professions," says study author Farinaz Havaei, an assistant professor of nursing at UBC. "Other studies have shown that addressing patient complaints contributes to positive patient outcomes. Now, for the first time, we have evidence that acting on these complaints can also protect nurses' safety."

The researchers analyzed the results of the B.C. Nurses' Workload Impact Study, comparing workload factors (such as how many tasks nurses say they left unfinished during their last shift and how often they experienced heavy workloads) with patients' complaints and reports of emotional and physical abuse towards nurses. Results showed a strong correlation between patients' complaints and violence, says Havaei.

Nurses said they received an average of one complaint a month, and experienced emotional or physical abuse from patients or their families with about the same frequency.

"What we think happens is a spiral of aggression is created. Patients get frustrated by what they see as poor-quality performance--often caused by factors such as staff shortages and large workloads," says Havaei. "They respond initially with complaints, and if those complaints aren't addressed in a timely manner, they can then escalate into more serious acts of aggression. Unfortunately, the resulting injuries, stress and burnout lead to a further decline in quality of patient care."

The researchers also found a direct connection between workload factors and violence, supporting earlier research by others. For example, caring for patients with chronic or complex conditions was linked to experiences of emotional violence. Interruptions on the job and inability to finish tasks during a shift--typically caused by short-staffing--were linked to increased reports of both physical and emotional violence.

Study co-author Maura MacPhee says the results highlight the need for policies and systems improvements that alleviate workload pressures.

"For example, we need a way to better match patient needs with individual nurses' competencies and experience levels," said MacPhee, a UBC nursing professor who studies nurses' working environments. "Nurses and their managers should also treat patient complaints as they do any other adverse event in health care and always seek to identify their causes."
The study, published in Nursing Open, was funded by the British Columbia Nurses Union and the research not-for-profit Collaborative Alliance for Nurse Outcomes.

University of British Columbia

Related Health Care Articles:

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.
Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.
Spending on primary care vs. other US health care expenditures
National health care survey data were used to assess the amount of money spent on primary care relative to other areas of health care spending in the US from 2002 to 2016.
MU Health Care neurologist publishes guidance related to COVID-19 and stroke care
A University of Missouri Health Care neurologist has published more than 40 new recommendations for evaluating and treating stroke patients based on international research examining the link between stroke and novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Large federal program aimed at providing better health care underfunds primary care
Despite a mandate to help patients make better-informed health care decisions, a ten-year research program established under the Affordable Care Act has funded a relatively small number of studies that examine primary care, the setting where the majority of patients in the US receive treatment.
International medical graduates care for Medicare patients with greater health care needs
A study by a Massachusetts General Hospital research team indicates that internal medicine physicians who are graduates of medical schools outside the US care for Medicare patients with more complex medical needs than those cared for by graduates of American medical schools.
The Lancet Global Health: Improved access to care not sufficient to improve health, as epidemic of poor quality care revealed
Of the 8.6 million deaths from conditions treatable by health care, poor-quality care is responsible for an estimated 5 million deaths per year -- more than deaths due to insufficient access to care (3.6 million) .
Under Affordable Care Act, Americans have had more preventive care for heart health
By reducing out-of-pocket costs for preventive treatment, the Affordable Care Act appears to have encouraged more people to have health screenings related to their cardiovascular health.
High-deductible health care plans curb both cost and usage, including preventive care
A team of researchers based at IUPUI has conducted the first systematic review of studies examining the relationship between high-deductible health care plans and the use of health care services.
Medical expenditures rise in most categories except primary care physicians and home health care
This article was published in the July/August 2017 issue of Annals of Family Medicine research journal.
More Health Care News and Health Care Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Warped Reality
False information on the internet makes it harder and harder to know what's true, and the consequences have been devastating. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around technology and deception. Guests include law professor Danielle Citron, journalist Andrew Marantz, and computer scientist Joy Buolamwini.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.