Objective: To identify how psychiatric residents perceive their ability to conduct violence risk assessments and the risk factors they considered relevant in an emergency department setting.
Method: We surveyed 55 of 159 psychiatric residents at the University of Toronto as to their experience and education in assessing suicide and violence risk. The residents, and a comparison group of 11 of 16 staff psychiatrists in the Law and Mental Health program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, then participated in a mock interview with one of the authors. The subjects were directed to ask for all risk factors that would be relevant in determining the violence risk of a hypothetical patient with homicidal ideation. The risk factors they requested were compared with the risk factors found in the Historical, Clinical and Risk Management-20 (HCR-20) structured clinical judgment tool.
Results: Psychiatric residents, on average, inquired about 6 fewer HCR-20 risk factors than staff psychiatrists (8.5, compared with 14.7). The number of HCR-20 items identified by residents correlated with several items; more risk factors were elicited by residents in a higher year of training, those who had received more formal and informal education, the number of patients for whom they had discharged a duty to warn, and the number of suicidal and violent patients they had previously assessed. Confidence at assessing violence risk was not correlated with performance.
Conclusions: Psychiatric residents identify significantly fewer risk factors for violence than staff psychiatrists. Resident performance was correlated with increasing experience and education. It was not related to self-confidence in performing this task.