Bloodied, broken and burned out: 88% of Ontario long-term care staff experience violence

Two new reports are being released concurrently that expose the high level of violence, abuse and harassment against staff employed in Ontario’s long-term care homes.

An in-depth, peer-reviewed investigative study on violence against staff in Ontario long-term care homes has just been published. The study, titled “Breaking Point: Violence Against Long-term Care Staff,” was conducted by Canadian researchers, Dr. James Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith, who are associated with the University of Windsor and the University of Stirling in the UK. They held group interviews with long-term care staff in seven Ontario communities. 

What the researchers heard is that long-term care staff are bloodied and broken both physically and psychologically.

“Long-term care homes in Ontario are largely staffed by women. Their work is based on compassion and care,” says Dr. Keith. “And yet, they themselves are expected to tolerate an environment in which physical, verbal, racial and sexual aggression are rampant.

Adding to their burden is the implicit threat that they will be disciplined or fired if they speak publicly about these abuses.”

Many of the study subjects agreed with one participant who summarized her experiences with workplace violence as follows:

“I’ve been kicked. I’ve been scratched. Last night I got punched in the back. I’ve had shoes, hats, everything thrown at me. There’s not a day that I haven’t been abused whether it’s verbal or physical. Ever.” 

The study revealed a largely overlooked culture of abuse, a lack of uniform protections and regulations, understaffing and underfunding, as well as resulting high levels of stress and burnout among the front-line care givers. “We found that physical, sexual and verbal abuse have been allowed to become normalized within the long-term care work environment,” Dr. Brophy said. “We believe the health and well-being of health care staff reflect the health of the health care system itself and, therefore, these findings should precipitate a critical examination of the institutional factors that allow for such high levels of violence.”