Causes and management of patient aggression and violence: staff and patient perspectives

Duxbury, Joy orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1772-6874 and Whittington, Richard (2005) Causes and management of patient aggression and violence: staff and patient perspectives. Journal Of Advanced Nursing, 50 (5). pp. 469-478. ISSN 0309-2402

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Aim.  This paper reports a study of staff and patient perspectives on the causes of patient aggression and the way it is managed.

Background.  The incidence of aggression in healthcare is reportedly on the increase, and concerns about the management of this problem are growing.

Method.  A convenience sample of 80 patients and 82 nurses from three inpatient mental healthcare wards were surveyed using The Management of Aggression and Violence Attitude Scale. A further five patients and five nurses from the same sample participated in a number of follow-up interviews.

Results.  Patients perceived environmental conditions and poor communication to be a significant precursor of aggressive behaviour. Nurses, in comparison, viewed the patients’ mental illnesses to be the main reason for aggression, although the negative impact of the inpatient environment was recognized. From interview responses, it was evident that both sets of respondents were dissatisfied with a restrictive and under-resourced provision that leads to interpersonal tensions.

Conclusion.  There are differences between the views of staff and patients about reasons for aggression and its management. Future approaches therefore need to be developed that address these opposing views. For example, training in the use of fundamental therapeutic communication skills was advocated by patients, whilst the need for greater attention to organizational deficits was advocated by nurses. A move away from reliance on the use of medication was also felt to be necessary. Evaluation of local needs and practices must be an integral part of this process.

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