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ER doctors frequent targets of physical assault at work: survey

male nurse
Photo: ajr_images/iStockphoto

San Diego — Nearly half of emergency physicians have been physically assaulted on the job, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Researchers analyzed nationwide responses from more than 3,500 emergency physicians, of whom 71 percent were male. Forty-seven percent of respondents said they had experienced physical assault at work, with 60 percent reporting assaults within the past year.

Other findings:

  • 71 percent of respondents reported witnessing an assault, while 69 percent said violence in the emergency room has increased.
  • 77 percent reported that violence in the emergency room has harmed patient care. Among that group, 51 percent said patients have been physically harmed.
  • 97 percent of workers who had been assaulted specified that a patient committed the assault, and 28 percent reported being assaulted by a patient’s family member or friend.
  • 83 percent claimed that a patient had threatened to return to the hospital to harm them or an emergency room colleague.

“More needs to be done,” ACEP President Vidor Friedman said in an Oct. 2 press release. “Violence in emergency departments is not only affecting medical staff, it is affecting patients. When violence occurs in an emergency department, patients can be injured or traumatized to the point of leaving without being seen. It also can increase wait times and distract emergency staff from focusing on other patients who urgently require a physician’s assistance.”

Findings were presented Oct. 2 at ACEP’s annual meeting.

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