Considering what she has been through, paediatric nurse Rosie Purves is remarkably tolerant about being verbally abused by patients.
"There is no fear in the world like when your child is sick, and as a nurse, you have to understand that. Nurses are passionate about their jobs but you do get abuse from parents, and I know how to calm people down and deal with their fears," she says. "But not racist abuse."
Rosie had been a nurse at Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust since 1974 when, in 1997, a patient refused to let her treat her baby because she is black.
This would have been bad enough but the situation was compounded by the reaction of the trust. Instead of supporting her, the family - who often had an equally racist friend in tow - was simply moved to other nurses, leaving Rosie feeling undermined and isolated.
Eventually, she became depressed and, from September 2003 to February 2004, was off sick.
In May last year, she was awarded 20,000 after an employment tribunal ruled the trust had been "effectively silent and complicit" in the racist demands made by the parent in question.
"There is generally very little support, you are generally simply required to keep a stiff upper lip," she says, adding that the attitude was often one of 'if you want to get up the career ladder, you'll keep quiet'.
Rosie's case is obviously an isolated incident but, if the latest statistics are anything to go by, verbal abuse is an issue that is getting worse in the NHS, and one that occupational health professionals have yet fully to get a handle on.
A survey by the Healthcare Commission in March reported that one in four said they had been harassed or abused by patients or their relatives in the past year. Just as worrying, this figure rose to 37% if bullying or harassment from colleagues was included.
When it came to physical attacks, 14% of those polled said they had been attacked by patients or relatives and 15% by colleagues.
And it is not the only evidence. A survey last autumn by the magazine Nursing Times found nine out of 10 nurses had suffered verbal abuse, with a quarter of the 2,500 nurses polled saying its effects had made them consider quitting their profession early.
A survey last May by the NHS in Scotland also found 90 out of 1,000 staff were subject to a violent or abusive attack in the previous 12 months.
While most trusts and OH departments are now well up to speed on ph