The Australia Nursing Federation says nurses need to be protected from assaults by drunk and drug-affected patients.
The union is urging state and federal governments to use upcoming changes to Occupational Health and Safety laws to make hospitals safer for nurses.
It has proposed introducing panic buttons in emergency wards.
The Federation’s federal secretary, Ged Kearney, says nurses are increasingly being physically and verbally abused by patients.
“Hospitals in particular are quite dangerous places. Nurses, our members, are reporting more and more abuse from patients and relatives,” she said.
“It’s not always physical abuse but there are instances definitely of physical abuse, but certainly verbal abuse and threats, and it’s really not a safe place to work all the time.”
Ms Kearney says nurses do not always feel they can report the violence.
She says state and federal governments should compel employers to consult with staff about health and safety issues as they occur.
“We really want the new OH and S laws to empower the workers, empower our nurses to feel that they can go to their employers and say, ‘Hey, we’re really worried about our workplace’,” she said.
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