Background: There is evidence that student nurses are vulnerable to experiencing verbal abuse from a variety of sources and under-reporting of verbal abuse is prevalent throughout the nursing profession.\ud The objective of the study is to explore the reporting behaviours of student nurses who have experienced verbal abuse.\ud Method: For this study a definition of verbal abuse was adopted from current Department of Health (England) guidelines. Questionnaires were distributed in 2005 to a convenience sample of 156 third year nursing students from one pre-registration nursing programme in England. A total of 114 questionnaires were returned, giving an overall response rate of 73.0%.\ud Results: Fifty one students (44.7% of responses) reported verbal abuse; all of these completed the section exploring reporting behaviours. The incidents involved patients in thirty three cases (64.7%); eight cases (15.7%) involved visitors or relatives and ten cases (19.6%) involved other healthcare workers. Thirty two students (62.7%) stated that they did report the incident of verbal abuse they\ud experienced and nineteen (37.3%) of respondents reported that they did not. Only four incidents developed from an oral report to being formally documented. There was a statistically significant association (P = 0.003) between the focus of verbal abuse (patient/visitor or colleague) and the respondents reporting practices with respondents experiencing verbal abuse from colleagues less likely to report incidents. Most frequent feelings following experiences of verbal abuse from colleagues were feelings of embarrassment and hurt/shock. Most frequent consequences of experiencing verbal abuse from patients or relatives were feeling embarrassed and feeling sorry for the abuser. When comparing non reporters with reporters, the most frequent feelings of non reporters were embarrassment and hurt and reporters, embarrassment and feeling sorry for the\ud abuser. When considering levels of support after the incident the mean rating score of respondents who reported the incident was 5.40 (standard deviation 2.89) and of those that did not, 4.36 (standard deviation 2.87) which was not statistically significant (p = 0.220).\ud Conclusions: 1. Not documenting experiences of verbal abuse formally in writing is a prevalent phenomenon within the sample studied and reporting practices are inconsistent.\ud 2. Both Higher Education Institutions and health care providers should consider emphasising formal reporting and documenting of incidents of verbal abuse during student nurse training and access to formal supportive services should be promoted.\ud 3. Effective incident reporting processes and analysis of these reports can lead to an increased awareness of how to avoid negative interactions in the workplace and how to deal with incidents effectively
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