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Violence and aggression in the intensive care unit: what is the impact of Australian National Emergency Access Target?

journal contribution
posted on 2019-11-01, 00:00 authored by A Pol, M Carter, Stephane BouchouchaStephane Bouchoucha
INTRODUCTION: Violence in healthcare settings is a concern for healthcare professionals and patients. Media reports, and debate within the healthcare profession, and the academic literature infer that workplaces such as intensive care units are becoming exposed to increasing violence. Increases in the incidence of violent behaviour are sometimes attributed to the increased pressure on emergency departments to accelerate the throughput of patients to meet targets. To ensure the wellbeing of patients and staff, there is a need to evaluate the impact of such targets. The aim in this study was to evaluate the incidence and to describe the context in which patients' aggressive and violent behaviours occurred since the introduction of the National Emergency Access Target in a local tertiary Australian intensive care unit. METHODS: A retrospective examination of events triggering violence-related emergency codes from 12 months before the introduction of the National Emergency Access Target up until 12 months after its implementation (2011-2013). RESULTS: A small increase in the number of Code Grey/Code Black activation was identified after the introduction of the target (before = 18, after = 29). Admissions following drug overdoses, isolated head trauma, and cardiac arrest were the presentations most likely to have been associated with a violence-related emergency call. Female registered nurses, male critical care registered nurses, and clinical nurse specialists were the most at risk of occupational violence. Male nursing staff members were found to be more likely to be involved in incidences of verbal violence (p < 0.003). CONCLUSION: Although there was a minimal increase in the overall number of emergencies triggered by violent behaviour, valuable information on the type of occupational violence occurring towards healthcare professionals and patients in this setting was found. We suggest that these findings add further important detail to the existing understanding of the problem of occupational violence. These detailed insights can further inform policy development, professional education, and practice.



Australian critical care






Amsterdam, The Netherlands





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

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2018 Australian College of Critical Care Nurses Ltd.