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College of Nursing adjunct professor Donna Gates, PhD, and research associate Tammy Mentzel traveled to Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 19-22, 2011, to speak at the 7th European Congress on Violence in Clinical Psychiatry.
Gates, who is widely known in nursing research as a champion of occupational safety for health care workers, delivered an oral presentation titled, "The effect of violence on healthcare workers’ stress and productivity.”
You’ve spent the majority of your career researching violence in the workplace for nurses…why is this important to you?
Yes, I am passionate about violence against health care workers for reasons that support both my roles as a nurse and as an occupational health and safety researcher. I myself experienced violence from patients while working in the health care system and was always bothered by its tolerance and acceptance.
As a new researcher I saw that health care workers incurred more assaults while at work than all other workers. My research has shown that violence affects both the workers and the patients. Assaults, threats and harassment clearly have a negative impact on workers’ stress, feelings of safety, turnover and ability to provide safe and compassionate care to patients. Although all violence cannot be prevented in health care, much can be done to prevent and manage the violence and provide care to victims of violence.
What is your professional background?
I have a bachelor’s and master’s of science in nursing from the University of Cincinnati, and master’s of science in public health and doctorate in health promotion from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to UC in 1995 I had my own business in Lexington, Kentucky, providing occupational health and safety programs, and consultation for health care and non-health care companies. I was also an assistant professor at Eastern Kentucky University.
You’ve stepped down to take an adjunct position, what areas will you be focusing on now? After 16 years of being a tenured professor, I am taking a break to examine "what I want to do next.” Before coming to the College of Nursing the longest I had ever stayed in a job was six years. Until August 31, I will be completing as principal investigator the last year of a large CDC violence intervention study. I am also teaching classes. After August I want to continue to provide consultation and education on workplace violence and mentor young nurse scientists. As for other areas of focus, I will continue to explore opportunities.
How do you spend your personal time?
A sizeable amount of my personal time is spent with family, particularly my husband, father and sons. I have a passion for traveling both in the U.S. and overseas. I also enjoy spending time with friends, reading and taking long walks.