Usually handing out whistles to employees is a symbolic gesture of exposing abuses. But the whistles in a new NSGEU nurse safety campaign may need to be used for real emergencies.

The NSGEU started its Blow the Whistle on Workplace Violence campaign this week after speaking with a cross-section of nurses and finding almost unanimously they had experienced some form of abuse. The abuses ranged from physical violence to bullying — the abusers ranged from patients to co-workers.

“Once I was leaning over the bed of an elder patient who had dementia … he reached up and grabbed my uniform collar,” recalled nurse Janet MacKenzie. “I grabbed his hands because I knew if I let go of his hands he was going to hit me. If I had had that whistle I would have been able to blow it and get help.”
Luckily, as she yelled for help, an orderly was walking by and heard her. But MacKenzie says such incidents have become too common.


The campaign involves distributing whistles on lanyards, as well as posters and newsletters to inform nurses of their rights.

NSGEU president Joan Jessome said understaffing and high-stress situations can lead to emotional abuse by co-workers and management.

“Harassment, both physical and psychological, is rampant. That’s why it’s so important to launch this campaign,” she said.

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