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Workplace violence damaging the mental health of doctors: Study

The rising cases of violence against healthcare professionals across the country are doing great harm to the mental health of resident doctors in healthcare settings.

The majority of doctors serving in tertiary care hospitals in Delhi have reported that violence is affecting their mental well-being, finds a study carried out by the Department of Community Medicine, Safdarjung Hospital and Vardhman Mahavir Medical College (VMMC), Delhi.

The study, carried out by Prof Anita Khokhar, Dr Md Alam, Dr Mohit Goyal and Dr Sheveta Lukhmana, was conducted on 326 resident doctors.

The researchers observed that 73.3% of 326 resident doctors claimed that workplace violence (WPV) had harmed their mental well-being, while 69.9% reported that WPV had also harmed their physical well-being.

Furthermore, social life and family were negatively affected by WPV, as reported by 59.2% and 53.4% of participants, respectively.

These findings were statistically significant and demonstrated a strong association between workplace violence and its impact on various aspects of doctors' lives.

Participants who experienced WPV exhibited a statistically significant inclination to contemplate changing their occupations and reported decreased motivation.

A total of 262 of 326 resident doctors reported that they had at least one incidence of workplace violence in their lifetime.

Those participants, who had faced verbal abuse also faced physical violence in the workplace.

The study found that the prevalence of harassment was higher among non-surgical departments than among surgical departments.

Verbal abuse was most common in the paediatrics department, where 96.2% of doctors reported experiencing it.

In contrast, physical violence was most common in the casualty department, with 29.1% of doctors reporting experiencing it.

The study found that 6.7% of participants reported experiencing verbal violence daily, and 14.5% reported experiencing it at least once a week.

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Additionally, 20.9%, 21.8%, and 16.5% of participants reported experiencing verbal violence at least once a month, once every six months, and once a year, respectively.

Regarding physical violence, 18 (5.5%) participants reported experiencing it once a month, while the remaining 53 (16.5%) participants reported experiencing it once every six months or less.

The leading cause of workplace violence among healthcare professionals, according to the survey, was either a real or perceived delay in receiving medical treatment, accounting for 33.8% of all reported instances.

The death of a patient was the second most commonly reported cause in 32.6% of cases. Other significant factors included non-improvement or deterioration of the patient's condition (23.9%) and incorrect perceptions about treatment (9.7%).

Further analysis showed that the most common cause of violence in the casualty, obstetrics and gynaecology, and orthopaedics departments was the delay in getting treatment while worsening patients' conditions was the most common cause in the medicine and surgery departments.

Furthermore, the most prevalent cause of violence documented in the paediatrics department was a patient's death.

According to the study's findings, a large proportion of doctors in a tertiary care hospital in Delhi experience workplace violence. Despite the significant prevalence of WPV, reporting of these incidents remains low due to insufficient assistance and poor reporting procedures within healthcare organisations.

The negative impact of WPV is not limited to the physicians' psycho-social well-being but extends to their approach to patient care as well. Therefore, taking appropriate actions to prevent WPV is crucial for ensuring the safety and well-being of healthcare professionals and improving patient outcomes.

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