Nearly 8 in 10 ER physicians say violence affects patient care

Almost half (47 percent) of emergency physicians say they have been physically assaulted at work, and about 8 in 10 emergency physicians say violence is affecting patient care, according to the results of a poll released by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

About half (51 percent) of physicians who said violence is affecting patient care said patients also have been physically harmed.

"When violence occurs in an emergency department, patients can be injured or traumatized to the point of leaving without being seen," said Vidor Friedman, MD, president of the emergency physicians group. "It also can increase wait times and distract emergency staff from focusing on other patients who urgently require a physician's assistance."

The poll of more than 3,500 emergency physicians, which was conducted by Marketing General Incorporated, found emergency physicians across all demographics face various forms of violence.

"Nearly three-quarters [70 percent] of those assaulted say that their hospital administration or hospital security did respond to the incident, yet among those whose hospital responded, only 3 percent say that the hospital security actually pressed charges," Dr. Friedman said.

Four other poll findings:

1. Sixty percent of emergency physicians who reported being physically assaulted at work said those assaults occurred in the last year.

2. More than 40 percent of emergency physicians said they believe psychiatric patients commit over half of assaults.

3. Nearly 7 in 10 physicians said violence has increased in the last five years, and 25 percent said it is increasing greatly. About half (49 percent) of respondents said hospitals can mitigate this by adding security guards, cameras, parking lot security, metal detectors and increasing visitor screening inside emergency departments.

4. Nearly all women who are emergency physicians (96 percent) said a patient or visitor made inappropriate comments or unwanted advances toward them, and 80 percent of male emergency physicians said the same, Dr. Friedman said.

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