Canadian long-term care workers nearly seven times more likely to experience violence than Nordic counterparts: York-led study

    TORONTO, March 10 /CNW Telbec/ - A new study led by York University
researchers reveals that a staggering number of Canadians working in long-term
care facilities suffer violence on the job.
    The study found that 43 percent of personal support workers endure
physical violence at work on a daily basis, while another quarter face such
violence every week. Most are women, and many are immigrants or from
marginalized racial groups.
    "What we found is disturbing," says Pat Armstrong, a professor in York's
Department of Sociology, and study co-author. "Canada's levels of violence
towards long-term care workers are significantly higher than the other
countries we looked at. The situation is out of control, as one respondent put
    Workers at 71 unionized long-term care facilities in Manitoba, Ontario
and Nova Scotia were surveyed about their experiences of physical violence,
unwanted sexual attention, and racial comments. They were nearly seven times
more likely to experience such daily violence than workers in Denmark,
Finland, Norway, and Sweden.
    "Most studies will compare our situation with that of the U.S.," says
Armstrong. "We felt it was more relevant to compare ourselves with countries
that have a public healthcare infrastructure. When we do this, we realize just
how behind we really are."
    The physical violence experienced by care workers typically includes
being slapped or hit with an object. It frequently involves being pinched,
bitten, having one's hair pulled, being poked or spit on. Having one's wrists
painfully twisted is also common. One survey respondent noted:
    "I've been punched in the face several times. I've been punched in the
jaw several times. Getting hit. Having your wrists twisted... Pulling and
shoving at you. I mean that's a day-to-day thing. Violence is an everyday
    Armstrong says most violent incidents go unreported.
    "Workers are afraid to report violent incidents, fearing that they will
be blamed. Or they simply don't have the time to do so. Alarmingly, workers
inform us that they are expected to take such abuse. They are told to "lighten
up,"" she says.
    The study also establishes a correlation between levels of violence and
heavy workloads placed on staff. The main difference between Canada and Nordic
countries is staffing levels.
    "Most of the violence occurs during daily care activities, which involve
intimate acts and sharing of personal space. If such care is rushed, or worse,
if it is forced - for instance, when residents are required to get up, get
dressed, or bathe before they are ready - this may leave residents feeling
threatened, fearful or overwhelmed and prone to retaliate violently," says
    Unwanted sexual attention was also commonly experienced by personal
support workers surveyed. Approximately one third (30.1 percent) said they
experienced unwanted sexual attention on a daily or weekly basis.
    Armstrong notes that 95 percent of personal support workers are women.
"Violence in long-term care is not just a worker's issue. It's a women's
issue. When we speak of violence against personal support workers, we are in
effect speaking of violence against women."
    The research forms part of a larger comparative project investigating
working conditions in long-term care facilities across Canada and the Nordic
countries of Demark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. To facilitate comparisons
between countries, the survey was designed in coordination with Nordic
partners to ensure that largely identical questions were asked in both the
Nordic and Canadian context. Five major health care unions (CAW, CFNU, CUPE,
NUPGE, SEIU) aided in the distribution of the survey.

    The study, "Out of Control": Violence against Personal Support Workers in
Long-Term Care, is authored by: Albert Banerjee, Doctoral candidate, York
University Department of Sociology; Tamara Daly, Assistant Professor, York
University, School of Health Policy & Management; Hugh Armstrong, Professor,
Carleton University, School of Social Work; Pat Armstrong, Professor, York
University, Department of Sociology and Women's Studies and Canadian Health
Services Research Foundation / Canadian Institutes of Health Research Chair in
Health Services and Nursing Research; Stirling LaFrance, Master's Candidate,
York University, Department of Sociology, and Marta Szebehely, Professor,
Stockholm University, Department of Social Work.
    The study will be published as part of a forthcoming book on long-term
residential care.

For further information:

For further information: Melissa Hughes, Media Relations, York
University, (416) 736-2100 x 22097,; Sébastien Goulet, CUPE
Communications, (613) 237-1590

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