Background: Over recent years there has been an increasing prevalence of verbal and physical violence in Israel, including in the work place. Physicians are exposed to violence in hospitals and in the community. The objective was to characterize acts of verbal and physical violence towards hospital- and community-based physicians.
Methods: A convenience sample of physicians working in the hospital and community completed an anonymous questionnaire about their experience with violence. Data collection took place between November 2001 and July 2002. One hundred seventy seven physicians participated in the study, 95 from the hospital and 82 from community clinics. The community sample included general physicians, pediatricians, specialists and residents.
Results: Ninety-nine physicians (56%) reported at least one act of verbal violence and 16 physicians (9%) reported exposure to at least one act of physical violence during the previous year. Fifty-one hospital physicians (53.7%) were exposed to verbal violence and 9 (9.5%) to physical violence. Forty-eight community physicians (58.5%) were exposed to verbal violence and 7 (8.5%) to physical violence. Seventeen community physicians (36.2%) compared to eleven hospital physicians (17.2%) said that the violence had a negative impact on their family and on their quality of life (p < 0.05). The most common causes of violence were long waiting time (46.2%), dissatisfaction with treatment (15.4%), and disagreement with the physician (10.3%).
Conclusion: Verbal and/or physical violence against physicians is common in both the hospital and in community clinics. The impatience that accompanies waiting times may have a cultural element. Shortening waiting times and providing more information to patients and families could reduce the rate of violence, but a cultural change may also be required.