Receptionists' experiences of occupational violence in general practice: A qualitative study

Publication Type:
Journal Article
British Journal of General Practice, 2009, 59 (565), pp. 578 - 583
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Background: The significance of occupational violence in general practice is well established, but research has focused almost exclusively on the experiences of GPs. Only limited research has examined the role of general practice receptionists despite their acknowledged vulnerability to violent patient behaviour. No qualitative research has explored this problem. Aim: To explore the experiences of general practice receptionists regarding occupational violence and the effects of violence on their psychological and emotional wellbeing and on their work satisfaction and performance. Design of study: Qualitative study. Setting: Constituent practices of an Australian network of research general practices. Practices were located in a range of socioeconomic settings. Method: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with practice receptionists. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and subjected to thematic analysis employing a process of constant comparison in which data collection and analysis were cumulative and concurrent. Qualitative written responses from a cross-sectional questionnaire-based study performed concurrently with the qualitative study were similarly analysed. Results: Nineteen interviews were conducted and 12 written responses were received. Violence was found to be a common, sometimes pervasive, experience of many receptionists. Verbal abuse, both 'across the counter' and telephone abuse, was the most prominent form of violence, although other violence, including assault and threats with guns, was reported. Experiences of violence could have marked emotional and psychological effects and could adversely affect job satisfaction, performance, and commitment. Conclusion: It is apparent that occupational violence is a whole-of-practice problem and strategies for GP and staff safety will need to take a whole-of-practice approach. ©British Journal of General Practice 2009.
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