Violence in community pharmacy in Australia: incidence and implications

Int J Clin Pharm. 2011 Apr;33(2):264-72. doi: 10.1007/s11096-011-9492-3. Epub 2011 Mar 12.


Objective: To estimate the frequency, nature and impact of violent incidents in Australian community pharmacies.

Setting: A sample of Australian community pharmacists.

Method: A survey of Australian pharmacists sought to estimate the frequency of exposure to an array of violent incidents in the preceding 12 months. The sample population was drawn from all pharmacists currently registered in Australia, with a proportionate number from each state and territory surveyed. The selected pharmacists were sent a letter of explanation, the questionnaire and the reply-paid envelope. The questionnaire was developed specifically for this study with extensive testing among a small number of community pharmacists.

Main outcome measure: Frequency of violent incidents experienced in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Results: Surveys were mailed to 1000 randomly selected pharmacists registered in Australia in 2007. In total, 248 eligible replies were received resulting in a usable response rate of 25%. The majority of respondents (91%) had experienced or witnessed some form of violence in community pharmacy within the preceding 12 months. Of all respondents, approximately one-third (33%) had been subjected to verbal abuse on at least a once-monthly basis. One-fifth of all respondents experienced or witnessed incidents of bullying/intimidation at least monthly, while one-tenth of all respondents had been exposed to sexual harassment/assault at least once-monthly. The impact of violent incidents was significant, with approximately one in ten respondents who had experienced violent incidents having changed employment as a direct result of these violent incidents; the majority of these pharmacists changed to a different community pharmacy (95%). A large proportion of respondents claimed that they either 'sometimes' or 'never' reported violent incidents. Over half of all respondents claimed that they received no post-incident support regardless of the type of violence experienced.

Conclusion: Recognising the likelihood of selection bias in responding to the survey, the results nevertheless indicate that violence appears a real and common problem in Australian community pharmacies. The under-utilisation of violence preventative strategies, the lack of violence management by employers, under-reporting of violence and the lack of post-violence support need to be addressed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Australia
  • Bullying
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharmacies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pharmacists / psychology
  • Pharmacists / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Harassment / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Violence / prevention & control
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult