A high proportion of staff in Canadian long-term care facilities experience violence at work.

A new study reveals that 43 per cent of the nation’s personal support workers in residential aged care endure physical violence on a daily basis, while 25 per cent are subjected to violence once a week.

Almost a third of personal support workers said they encountered “unwanted sexual attention” on a weekly basis.

The staff at 71 Canadian residential facilities took part in a survey looking at the incidence of physical violence, unwanted sexual attention and racial comments.

The most common forms of physical violence experienced by survey respondents were being slapped or hit with an object.

Other types of violence that the personal support workers experienced included being pinched, bitten, having one’s hair pulled, being poked and spitting.

One survey respondent commented:  “I’ve been punched in the face several times. I’ve been punched in the jaw several times. Getting hit. Having your wrists twisted . . .Pulling and shoving at you. I mean that’s a day-to-day thing. Violence is an everyday occurrence.”

The study’s authors said the rates of violence in Canada were much higher than other countries, particularly the Nordic countries.

There is relatively little evidence about violence towards staff in Australian nursing homes and hostels.

A survey conducted on behalf of the Queensland Nurses’ Union in October, 2004 found that close to 60 per cent of registered nurses, enrolled nurses and assistants in nursing working in aged care had experienced some form of physical or psychological abuse in the previous six months.

The most common sources of violence in the Queensland study were residents, other nurses and nurse management.

The results from a similar survey conducted in 2007 will be released later this year.

The Canadian study reported that most violence towards personal support workers goes unreported.

It also established a correlation between levels of violence and heavy workloads placed on staff.

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