Alarming rise in violence against doctors

There is a significant increase in incidents of violence against doctors particularly in Kerala. A recent study published by Dr. Rahul Kannauth et al of Kozikode Medical College in ‘Cureus Journal’ is a standing testimony of confirmation of violence and has also identified the reasons for violence & how to overcome the attacks on doctors.

Doctors have faced threats of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other disruptive behaviours in their hospitals. It can be of various types, including verbal abuse, harassment or threats, physical assaults, and even homicide. The reasons for attack are owing to patient dissatisfaction, long waiting times due to inadequate staffing,  communication gaps, lack of medicines or other adequate facilities, and frustration with the healthcare system, long stay in hospital.  Doctors are facing peculiar situations leading to injuries, trauma, stress, anxiety, humiliations and burnout. Violence mars smooth functioning of medical facilities. Instances of violence can create an atmosphere of fear and hinder the doctor-patient relationship. The study has come out with disturbing evidence that almost 90 % of Doctors in Kerala face one or the other forms of violence which includes verbal abuse (89%), threats & blackmailing (23%) ,  harassment (16%) , physical violence (8%), cyber bullying (6%) , mob & sexual attacks (6%)  etc. The study has also highlighted that most of the violence has taken place in day time when treating doctors left the hospital.

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What should be done?

The study suggests, improving healthcare infrastructure, building strong communications with patients’ attenders, establishing relations with patients/attenders, explaining  the condition of patients through proper counselling in common man language, and enhancing security measures are crucial to create a safer work environment for doctors. Enhancing hospital security involves physical security systems, trained personnel, panic buttons, and collaboration with law enforcement. Introducing and emphasizing interpersonal communication skills during the undergraduate curriculum can positively impact the doctor-patient relationship.

Addressing violence against doctors requires a multifaceted approach involving healthcare institutions, government bodies, professional associations, and the community. Collaboration and sustained efforts are crucial to create an environment where healthcare professionals can perform their duties without fear of violence.

Compiled by Dr. Pramod N Sulikeri, Ph.D

Ref: Rahul Kunnath et al Workplace Violence Faced by Medical Doctors in Kerala, India DOI: 10.7759/cureus.48887 16Nov2023

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