ABU DHABI // Nurses are regularly subjected to verbal abuse, aggression and violence by their own colleagues in the workplace, a study has found.
A survey of 663 nursing staff at Dubai Hospital revealed that 36 per cent of respondents claimed they faced lateral violence, which the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health defines as “covert or overt acts of verbal or non-verbal aggression that occur between colleagues”, while at work.
It also found that 60 per cent said they were concerned about lateral violence in their workplace.
“Bullying and ostracism are some of the main problems. Work-related stress increases conflicts among colleagues which leads to violence,” said Jincy Anthony, supervisor of nursing education at Dubai Hospital,
Ms Anthony, who initiated and conducted the survey, believed lateral violence was not just limited to the nursing profession, but all employers should do more to tackle the problem.
“Many people come to me and tell me about their problems and I counsel them. I noticed that the number of people affected by lateral violence is increasing as more and more people were approaching me. This encouraged me to conduct this survey, as this would help us remodel policies,” she said.
According to the survey, those affected by violence said they felt a lack of safety and experienced higher stress levels.
Nurses reported incidents such as being spoken to with inappropriate language, being gossiped or talked about in a language they didn’t understand, being threatened with violence, or being deliberately socially isolated.
Ms Anthony said the effects of this were low staff morale, increased absenteeism, attrition of staff and, consequently, reduced levels of care to patients.
A Filipino nurse who works at a hospital in Abu Dhabi said: “I have faced verbal abuse. When we are dealing with patients who question our capabilities, we understand that they are in pain and try to console them. However, when colleagues talk behind one’s back it affects people.
“There is a mix of nationalities working in the nursing community in UAE, and we have received different kinds of training. Two nurses might be using methods they have been taught and each tries to outsmart the other, which can lead to problems. Everybody wants to be promoted and gossiping plays a part here.”
He also contended that nurses’ nationality was a factor in how they were treated in their workplace.
“Asian nurses are not treated as well as nurses from the West. Where one is from determines how much they are paid. Even if a person is a senior member of the staff, a junior from another nationality may be paid more than them,” he said.
He suggested that the introducing a system of equal pay would help reduce conflicts in the workplace.
Ms Anthony said companies should adopt a zero-tolerance policy to workplace violence and offer mandatory training on workplace safety to reduce the problem.
She also said hospitals should have special committees to deal with any complaints.
She would be discussing ways to manage lateral violence during a nursing conference as part of the Arab Health Recruitment & Training Fair, from October 18 to 20 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.