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Many general practitioners have been exposed to aggressive behaviour yet few have taken steps to protect themselves. Researcher Dr Danny Hills explains his six simple strategies for keeping a medical practice a safer and less stressful place to work.
We explore some simple ways to help make a medical practice a safer and less stressful place to work.
According to recent research, close to three in every five general practitioners (GPs) have experienced aggression in their surgeries. Yet only a few have clear strategies for creating a safer, less stressful workplace.
This insight comes from the report “Workplace aggression prevention and minimisation in Australian clinical medical practice settings – a national study”. And the findings suggest that key approaches recommended by leading international organisations and other researchers to tackle aggressive behaviour aren’t widely implemented in clinical medical workplaces in Australia.
“Aggression can be physical, verbal or written and perpetrated by anyone from patients and their relatives to co-workers,” says Dr Danny Hills, Assistant Professor in Nursing at the University of Canberra and one of the authors of the report. “Serious incidents can have a devastating impact though, fortunately, they are rare. But aggression at any level can wear people down, affecting their level of job satisfaction and possibly influencing their career options. It can also affect their health and wellbeing.”
The patterns of exposure to aggression are complex, but the report found that the strongest predictor is a doctor’s age.
“We saw that the younger the doctor, the more likely he or she is to have experienced aggression in the previous year,” says Dr Hills. “This might be because communication skills and the ability to manage difficult situations tend to develop with experience.”
In terms of preventing, minimising or escaping aggressive behaviour, Dr Hills found that his research is consistent with other work in this area. “There are some quite simple strategies that seem to work well, and which I’d recommend for anyone working in a medical practice.” he says.
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