Violence at work: the experience of general practice receptionists

Ir Med J. 2006 Jun;99(6):169-71.


Receptionists act as intermediaries between the General Practitioner and the public, and are often involved in conflicts between the GP and a demanding patient. However there is a paucity of research in this area. The aim of this study was to quantify the extent of violence directed towards GP receptionists and to categorise the type, frequency and impact of such aggression in two health board areas. A postal questionnaire was designed, piloted and sent to 400 randomly selected receptionists in the former Northern Area Health Board and the Western Health Board. We found that 62% (n= 168) of receptionists experienced violence in the past. 99% (n=166) had experienced verbal abuse while 31% (n=52) had experienced threats of physical abuse. 6% (n= 10) experienced physical abuse. In most cases the perpetrator was the patient 98% (n= 160). 28% (n=75) of practices had a practice policy for dealing with violence while only 13% (n=34) of receptionists received education on dealing with violence. This study shows that violence is a major problem among GP receptionists in Ireland. Aggression during the day is a regular feature for a GP receptionist. There is a higher reporting of violence in the Northern Area Health Board compared to the Western Health Board. We suggest that further education, research and practice policy development is needed to help target this problem and improve the overall quality of healthcare.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aggression
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Violence / prevention & control
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*