Verbal abuse, aggressive behaviour, criminal damage to objects--such incidents are to be expected within certain professions. Hardly anyone had included doctors in this thinking, however, although they too are exposed to such problems. Florian Vorderwülbecke and colleagues in the current issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2015; 112: 159-65) investigate, for the first time, how often acts of violence and aggression against primary care physicians are committed in Germany. They surveyed 1500 doctors, asking which assaults they had been exposed to, and where these took place, among other questions.
Almost one in two primary care physicians in the preceding year was confronted with aggressive behaviour. More than one in 10 even experienced critical to violent incidents--for example, criminal damage to objects or physical attacks. Although almost every primary care physician is aware of such problems, most of them feel safe in their practices. The situation is very different during on-call shifts, however, as is shown in the original study. Specifically female doctors feel unsafe during house visits. The authors therefore recommend that strategies should be developed for dealing with aggressive conduct. Furthermore, they emphasize the need for action in terms of protecting doctors during their on-call work in an appropriate way, as they're often sent out to unfamiliar patients--mostly alone and without any safety precautions.