Ready to quit: 46% of health and social care staff experience abuse at work

Nearly half of the healthcare professionals surveyed in a recent Florence study say they’ve experienced verbal and physical abuse at work.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Worryingly, 42% of nurses, care assistants and support workers surveyed say they’ve experienced racial abuse, while 48% have been subjected to swearing or negative comments. Nearly as many have been shouted at while on shift.

Almost a third of those polled have to deal with some type of abuse on a weekly basis; 7% say they encounter abuse every day. So, what’s the solution?

A crisis in healthcare

The Covid-19 pandemic pushed our healthcare system to the brink. Routine operations were cancelled, vital appointments got postponed and waiting lists grew exponentially.

The result? People became incredibly stressed.

As a result, 35% of all health and social care staff say staff abuse has grown worse since the pandemic. Collectively, frustrated patients and patients’ families account for 92% of the abuse. Some of the nurses, healthcare assistants and support workers we spoke to say they’ve been abused by members of the public, or on social media.

More than half the professionals we polled (55%) think that staff shortages are to blame for most of the abuse. A full 38% of workers surveyed say that when existing staff work harder to fill shift gaps, quality of care for patients goes down and bad behaviour increases.

Other reasons given for increased abuse include longer wait times (31%) and the cost of living crisis (17%).

Feeling demoralised

Unsurprisingly, healthcare professionals get upset when they’re abused on the job. Two in five people feel demoralised, while almost a quarter (23%) say they’re depressed, or otherwise less mentally healthy.

One in five of the people we polled (22%) want to switch careers and move out of the health and social care sector, and a further 13% have changed jobs at least once to escape abuse.

High vacancy rates

Florence Chief Nurse Fiona Millington believes that high vacancy rates make problems in the health and social care sector – including abuse – much worse.

“It’s an incredibly difficult time to be a nurse or carer at the moment, with levels of staff abuse on a steady increase since the pandemic,” she says. “The biggest challenge for the industry at the moment is, without a doubt, staffing.”

Fiona points out that there are more nurses leaving the industry than joining at a time when the demand for nurses is increasing. Remaining staff are left to deal with a growing amount of abuse – and the resulting stress.

“The situation is unsustainable and we need an urgent, long-term solution,” says Fiona. “We need to look after our frontline healthcare workers, not drive them out.”

Making things better

We can’t control waiting lists, but if high vacancy rates in the health and social care sector also lead to more abuse, it makes sense to improve staffing levels.

Reducing pressure on hard-working nurses, healthcare assistants and support workers can improve patient quality of care, reduce frustration and create a healthier environment for everyone.

Florence can help you schedule existing staff, find flexible nurses and carers to fill gaps in your rota, and provide essential training. Find out more and get started today.

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