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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.