Receptionists' perceptions of violence in general practice

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BackgroundViolence and threatening behaviour towards health care employees is a recognized hazard. There is a lack of research into the perceptions of general practice (GP) receptionists about this important workplace hazard.AimTo determine the factors that influence reception staff perceptions regarding the risk of future violent and threatening incidents at work.MethodsA cross-sectional survey using a self-administered postal questionnaire was carried out among reception staff working in 49 GPs in two UK National Health Service Primary Care Trusts.ResultsForty-nine (72%) practices agreed to participate. Two hundred and seven (68%) reception staff participated. Receptionists who reported having been threatened or attacked in the past 12 months were more likely to be worried about being threatened [odds ratio (OR) 4.9; 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.0–11.8] or attacked (OR 4.6; 95% CI 1.8–11.2) in the future. Receptionists with higher neuroticism scores were more worried about the future possibility of violence. Staff who felt safe and supported at work (P=0.003) and staff who had lower background sources of stress at work (P < 0.001) were less likely to feel they would be threatened or attacked at work. Staff who had received training about violent and abusive incidents felt safer at work (OR=1.27; 95% CI 1.04–1.55).ConclusionPrevious episodes of threats or attacks at work make receptionists more worried about future episodes. Factors which reduce reception staff anxieties about violence and threat at work are working in a supportive environment where work stressors are controlled and receiving training on how to deal with violent, threatening and difficult behaviour.

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