HealthDay News — The stories grabbed headlines during the pandemic: violent episodes in U.S. emergency departments where patients attacked doctors.
Now, a new poll shows just how widespread the problem has become: Two-thirds of emergency department physicians reported being assaulted in the past year alone, while more than one-third of respondents said they have been assaulted more than once. Even worse, about 80 percent of emergency department physicians reported an increasing rate of violence, with 45 percent saying it had “greatly increased” during the past five years.
The poll, led by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), included 2,712 U.S. emergency department physicians and was conducted online between July 25 and Aug. 1.
COVID-19 has had an impact, chilling trust while increasing violence between patients, the care team, and staff, according to the ACEP. About two-thirds of emergency department physicians said they believed the pandemic had triggered an increase in the amount of violence in emergency departments. About 69 percent said the pandemic had decreased the level of trust between patients and emergency department staff.
The violence has had a negative impact on patient care, according to 89 percent of those surveyed, as it has increased wait times and led to patients leaving the emergency department without being seen by a doctor. About 87 percent of emergency department physicians said they had lost productivity because of the violence, while 85 percent reported emotional trauma and an increase in anxiety.
“As emergency departments are no longer respected as safe zones, inadequate protections for emergency medical professionals and staff, and patients, combined with insufficient accountability from hospitals, communities, and assailants, can only encourage violence to continue,” Chris Kang, M.D., president-elect of the ACEP, said in a statement. “We must do more to make sure that physicians and staff can perform their duties without needing to worry about threats to their well-being or safety.”