Wellbeing of nurses is associated with patient aggression. Little is known about the differences in these associations between nurses working in different specialties. We aimed to estimate and compare the prevalence of patient aggression and the associations between patient aggression and the wellbeing of nurses in psychiatric and non-psychiatric specialties (medical and surgical, and emergency medicine). A sample of 5288 nurses (923 psychiatric nurses, 4070 medical and surgical nurses, 295 emergency nurses) participated in the study. Subjective measures were used to assess both the occurrence of patient aggression and the wellbeing of nurses (self-rated health, sleep disturbances, psychological distress and perceived work ability). Binary logistic regression with interaction terms was used to compare the associations between patient aggression and the wellbeing of nurses. Psychiatric nurses reported all types of patient aggression more frequently than medical and surgical nurses, whereas nurses working in emergency settings reported physical violence and verbal aggression more frequently than psychiatric nurses. Psychiatric nurses reported poor self-rated health and reduced work ability more frequently than both of the non-psychiatric nursing groups, whereas medical and surgical nurses reported psychological distress and sleep disturbances more often. Psychiatric nurses who had experienced at least one type of patient aggression or mental abuse in the previous year, were less likely to suffer from psychological distress and sleep disturbances compared to medical and surgical nurses. Psychiatric nurses who had experienced physical assaults and armed threats were less likely to suffer from sleep disturbances compared to nurses working in emergency settings. Compared to medical and surgical nurses, psychiatric nurses face patient aggression more often, but certain types of aggression are more common in emergency settings. Psychiatric nurses have worse subjective health and work ability than both of the non-psychiatric nursing groups, while their psychiatric wellbeing is better and they have less sleep problems compared to medical and surgical nurses. Psychiatric nurses maintain better psychiatric wellbeing and experience fewer sleep problems than non-psychiatric nurses after events of exposure to patient aggression. This suggest that more attention should be given to non-psychiatric settings for maintaining the wellbeing of nurses after exposure to patient aggression.
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