Dealing with work-related violence

 Kim Sunley 12 Jul 2016

Work-related violence may come with the territory. But don’t ignore the effect it can have on nursing staff, writes Hannah.

I decided to become a nurse because I cared for others and I wanted to make a difference. I didn’t think that doing so might expose me to both verbal and physical aggression. I was only eighteen.

As soon as I experienced my first placement in mental health, I very quickly realised that work-related violence was commonplace in the field I had chosen to work in. I could either run a mile or learn to deal with this. I chose the latter.

Over the years, I have been called every name under the sun and have been introduced to some very colourful language. I have also been physically assaulted and hurt during restraint, all in the name of doing my job.

How do I deal with this? Although each experience affects me less and less, it still gets stored in the library of my mind.

I tell everyone that I am thick skinned but I’m not really sure what that means.

I cope by thinking of all the amazing, positive experiences I have had as a nurse and thankfully there are far more positives.

I talk to peers and this reassures me that I am not the only target. I listen to their coping strategies. Talking about how I’m feeling helps me remember why I do the job I love.

It’s important to try and take a compassionate stance, and understand that when patients or relatives are being aggressive, mostly they are doing so because they are unwell or distressed. They also need our help.

Ultimately, I use my own resilience. Thick skinned or not, I love being a nurse and even during the difficult times, I wouldn’t choose to do anything else.

Healthy workplace, healthy you

Our Healthy workplace, healthy you campaign has resources to help you with work-life balance including advice for carers and resources for employers on the benefits of flexible working arrangements.

Kim Sunley

Kim Sunley

Senior Employment Relations Adviser


Kim Sunley is a Senior Employment Relations Adviser at the Royal College of Nursing. Kim works to improve the health and safety and working environment for nursing staff across the United Kingdom.

Page last updated - 05/09/2018