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Workplace abuse among correctional health professionals in New South Wales, Australia

journal contribution
posted on 2018-11-29, 00:00 authored by AW Cashmore, D Indig, SE Hampton, Desley Hegney, B Jalaludin
Objective. Studies have found that health workers are at elevated risk of being abused while at work. Little is known, however, about workplace abuse among correctional health professionals. We implemented a cross-sectional study to investigate the prevalence, sources and consequences of workplace abuse among correctional health professionals in New South Wales, Australia. Methods. All employees of Justice Health (a statutory health corporation) were invited to complete a self-administered survey, which was delivered via the internet. Among nurses, medical doctors and allied health professionals, 299 usable surveys were returned; a response rate of 42%. Results. In the preceding 3 months, 76% of participants had personally experienced some form of abuse in their workplace, all but one of whom recalled verbal abuse. Only 16% reported physical abuse. Seventy per cent reported feeling safe in their workplace. Patients were identified as the main perpetrators of abuse, followed by fellow health staff. Participants felt that incidents of workplace abuse increased their potential to make errors while providing care to patients and reduced their productivity while at work. Conclusions. Compared with health workers who practise in a community setting, the risk of physical abuse among correctional health professionals appears to be low. What is known about the topic? Health professionals are at a high risk of workplace abuse. Studies have demonstrated that the risk of abuse varies by health profession and the practice environment. There is a paucity of research exploring workplace abuse among correctional health professionals. What does this paper add? A cross-sectional survey found that a relatively small proportion of correctional health professionals in New South Wales had been subjected to physical abuse in their workplace in the preceding 3 months. Verbal abuse, however, was reported by a majority of participants. Although patients were the most commonly reported source of abuse, a worrying level of health worker on health worker abuse (also known as horizontal abuse) was found. What are the implications for practitioners? Preventive strategies should address the temporal, environmental and structural determinants of workplace abuse in correctional and forensic facilities. More research is needed to identify the factors associated with horizontal abuse among correctional health professionals. This would allow the establishment of tailored preventive programs. © 2012 AHHA.






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C S I R O Publishing

Peer Reviewed

  • Yes

Open Access

  • Yes

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External Author Affiliations

New South Wales Ministry of Health; Centre for Health Research in Criminal Justice, Justice Health (NSW); University of New South Wales; Justice Health (NSW); Curtin University; Centre for Research, Evidence Management and Surveillance (REMS)

Era Eligible

  • Yes


Australian Health Review

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