Occupational Violence & Aggression (OVA) is a complex issue.


If COVID has had one positive for our health sector it is that safety screens have been erected in almost all medical clinics.

But why did it take a global pandemic for health services to take these measures?

In terms of employee wellbeing, having an organisation that takes all possible steps to protect an employee’s physical and emotional safety goes a long way.

It speaks to how employees are valued and cared for and demonstrates the organisation’s leadership and commitment to workplace wellbeing.

We know from hundreds of staff consultations that employees disengage and feel ‘hopeless’ when no steps ‘appear’ to be taken to support their wellbeing.

One of the biggest frustrations for public health staff in particular, is that there are Zero Tolerance and It’s Never Okay signs placed throughout the Hospital, yet, aggressive behaviour still continues with little repercussion for offenders.

Whilst this seems ludicrous on the surface, there are complex factors that contribute to the appearance that nothing is being done, and often much work is happening behind the scenes to design prevention and management systems including working with local police services to understand and navigate the justice system.

Internal systems in public health facilities may include the introduction of codes of behaviour and a systematic warning process that in some circumstances can result in eviction for inpatients whose behaviour continues to be inappropriate.

Our Primary Care providers are a little luckier, in that they can refuse care in most circumstances, as long as it is not an emergency care situation.

OVA is incredibly complex.

There are many environmental, systemic and individual (staff and patient/customers) factors that contribute to – or escalate – events and we explored these in detail in our PHN workshop whilst highlighting supportive activities that can be undertaken to ensure staff wellbeing remains a priority.

This includes:

  • Ensuring appropriate follow up for every event, not just those the service manager may consider serious.
  • OVA is subjective. Different staff respond in different ways to even minor verbal aggression and over time, even minor events can accumulate and cause significant emotional impact.
  • Removing judgement about how an individual staff member may have responded, or felt after the event.
  • Ensuring each incident is investigated to identify if systems or processes could be improved, and
  • Providing caring follow up support.

All of which goes a long way to enhancing the way our staff can cope with the challenging demands of modern-day healthcare.

Keep Leading!
Tan x

Tanya Heaney-Voogt

Director & Principal Consultant MBA, ICFACC, MAHRI, Dip Mgt, Dip Coaching, Prosci® Certified Change Practitioner E: tanya@tanyaheaneyvoogt.com

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