Nurses’ experiences and understanding of workplace violence in a trauma and emergency department in South Africa
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Violence in South African society has reached epidemic levels and has permeated the walls of the workplace. The aim of the study was to gain a deeper understanding of how nurses experience and understand workplace violence perpetrated by patients, and to make recommendations to reduce this type of violence. A qualitative, exploratory and descriptive study was conducted to explore the experiences and coping mechanisms of nurses regarding workplace violence. The purposive sample comprised eight nurses working in the Trauma and Emergency Department in the Western Cape, South Africa. Thematic analysis was done of the semi-structured interviews. Four main themes and 10 categories were identified. Nurses are experiencing physical threats, verbal abuse and psychological and imminent violence on a regular basis. They tend to ‘normalise’ abusive patient behaviour because of the perception that workplace abuse ‘comes with the territory’, which resulted in under-reporting. However, perpetrators received compromised care by being avoided, ignored or given only minimal nursing care. Coping mechanisms ranged from using colleagues as sounding boards, helping out with duties, taking a smoke break and using friends and family to get it ‘off their chest’. The tolerance of non-physical violence and the absence of policies to deal with the violence, contribute to under-reporting.