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Patient Aggression Toward Medical Receptionists Is Common

Evidence-based measures to improve receptionist working conditions needed, authors say

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 17, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Patient aggression toward general practice reception staff is a serious workplace safety concern, according to a review published online July 6 in Family Medicine and Community Health.

Fiona Willer, Ph.D., from the University of Queensland in Saint Lucia, Australia, and colleagues conducted a systematic literature review to better understand patient-initiated aggression toward general practice receptionists, including impacts on reception staff and existing mitigation strategies.

Based on 20 included studies (4,107 participants; 21.5 percent general practice receptionists), the researchers found that displays of aggression toward receptionists by patients were a frequent and routine occurrence in general practice, including verbal abuse (e.g., shouting, cursing, accusations of malicious behavior) and use of racist, ablest, and sexist insults. Physical violence was infrequent, but widely reported. Common precipitators included inefficient appointment scheduling systems, delayed access to doctors, and prescription denial. To placate patients and avoid escalation of patient frustrations, receptionists adapted their behavior and demeanor at the cost of their own well-being and clinic productivity. Training in patient aggression management increased receptionist confidence, but coordinated support for reception staff who experienced patient aggression was generally lacking.

“Receptionists in general practice deserve evidence-based measures to improve their working conditions and well-being for their own benefit and that of the community,” the authors write.

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