Aims: To identify prevalence, precipitants and risk factors of violence and aggression towards Australian rural general practitioners (GPs).
Method: Six focus groups were held with GPs from rural Western Australia and from two rural Divisions of General Practice in New South Wales and Victoria. A questionnaire was developed and all GPs in these three geographical areas were surveyed.
Results: The survey results showed that 73% of respondents had experienced some form of violent or aggressive behaviour from patients and 20% had been subjected to physical abuse during their careers as rural doctors. Physical abuse mostly occurred after hours and in a hospital or multipurpose centre. Violence and aggression were often associated with patient drug and alcohol intoxication and psychological disorders.
Conclusion: Workplace violence and aggression against rural GPs is a frequent problem. Adequate funding and safe facilities for after-hours care and training for GPs in managing dangerous situations should be provided.