Objectives: This study examined the extent to which a range of personal, professional, and work factors are associated with workplace aggression experienced by medical practitioners in Australian clinical practice settings.
Methods: An exploratory, descriptive study of cross-sectional, self-report survey design was undertaken in the third wave of the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life survey during 2010-2011. Of 16 327 medical practitioners sampled, 9951 (60.9%) responded and 9449 (57.9%) worked in clinical practice. Logistic regression was undertaken to detect statistically significant associations between a suite of personal, professional, and work variables and eight binary outcome variables measuring exposure to verbal or written and physical aggression from patients, patients' relatives or carers, co-workers and others external to the workplace during the previous year.
Results: Age was consistently negatively associated and external control orientation was consistently positively associated with workplace aggression exposure from each source. Key variables related to work conditions (total hours worked, unpredictable work hours, a poor support network of other doctors, patients with unrealistic expectations, patients with complex health and social problems) and the presence of workplace aggression prevention and minimization strategies (alerts to high risk of aggression, restricting or withdrawing access for aggressive persons and optimized patient waiting) were also associated with aggression exposure.
Conclusions: A broader implementation of strategies to prevent and minimize the likelihood and consequences of workplace aggression is required and needs to take account of both the individual and sub-group profiles of medical practitioners. Strategies need to mitigate the more challenging aspects of medical work, including excessive work hours, inadequate access to professional support networks, and larger caseloads of patients with complex conditions.
Keywords: aggression; clinical; medical; medicine; violence; work.