After hours doctors should take measures to protect themselves against experiencing aggression.
This is the call from Griffith academic and Gold Coast GP Dr Chris Ifediora following a Griffith University study finding that around half of all doctors who provide after-hours house call (AHHC) services have experienced aggression in their work over the 12 months prior to the study.
The study, which is the first ever Australian study on the subject, surveyed 300 doctors employed by one of Australia’s largest AHHC providers and found that 47% had experienced an instance of aggression over the past year.
Most common was verbal abuse (48% of cases), followed by threats (27%) and vexatious complaints (13%). Property damage, physical violence, sexual harassment and stalking were all also reported by doctors.
“The odds of having experienced aggression didn’t vary greatly according to gender, although female doctors were more likely to say they were concerned or anxious about aggressive behaviour in the course of their work,” says Dr Ifediora from Griffith’s School of Medicine.
“Overall, over 90% of doctors said they were concerned about aggression and 75% said they were apprehensive about it.”
The study found that the patients themselves were the most common source of aggression (52%), followed by family members (30%) and friends of the patient (18%).
To lessen the likelihood of aggression from friends and family, the researchers suggest making an effort to engage family members and friends more, when permitted by the patient.
Postgraduate fellowships can have benefit
Dr Ifediora says that doctors with postgraduate fellowships were found to be significantly less likely to experience aggression.
“This probably reflects the greater training that these doctors have compared with non-fellows so I would always recommend some form of training in this regard.”
He also suggests the use of chaperones for after hours doctors as a safety measure.
“Previous studies have shown that engaging chaperones is one of a number of safety measures that doctors in after-hours home visits can adopt.
“This is something that I recommend, as it can help also reduce the risks of aggression and the apprehension that comes with it.
“Engaging chaperones has also been linked with reduced burnout for doctors in the service, and this can be an added benefit.
“However not all doctors will want to do this, for a diverse range of reasons which might include concerns with the cost of hiring them or privacy issues as some doctors like to maintain a high level of confidentiality in their workspace.”