Workplace violence ‘extremely high’ in radiologic sciences

More than 60% of diagnostic radiology and radiation therapy staff experience workplace violence, according to a study published January 9 in Radiography.

Risk factors for workplace violence include intoxicated patients, staff stress, long patient waiting times, overcrowded environments, and inadequate staff and security measures, wrote lead author Krushi Shah, of Curtin University in Perth, Australia. The authors called for implementing strategies to reduce risk.

“The most common coping strategy [we found in our review] was doing nothing, which is concerning,” they noted.

Workplace violence is a significant issue in healthcare, according to World Health Organization (WHO). Yet no systematic review has been published on the issue in medical radiation science, the authors noted.

To address this knowledge gap, the authors reviewed medical literature to identify articles on the issue over the last 10 years. They included 12 relevant articles in their research, with most investigating the prevalence of workplace violence using surveys. Responses from workers covered their whole career or experiences from six months to one year.

One-quarter of the studies focused on the issue in the U.S. and two-thirds were published from 2019, which indicates a recent increase in attention to the issue, the authors noted. Also, two-thirds of the studies focused on staff in diagnostic radiography, with the rest covering radiation therapy, medical sonography, and nuclear medicine.

According to a synthesis of the findings, the prevalence of workplace violence was 69% to 100% (whole career) and 46% to 83% (last 12 months) in diagnostic radiography, 63% to 84% (whole career) in radiation therapy, 58% in medical sonography (last 12 months), and 47% (last 6 months) in nuclear medicine.

The most common workplace violence type noted in the studies was verbal abuse and threats, which is consistent with findings from other reviews, namely in nursing, the authors wrote. However, sexual harassment and physical assault were the second and third most common types.

Additional risk factors included being a more vulnerable practitioner (i.e., a woman under 40 years old and with less than five years experience), working in waiting areas, working night shifts, a perceived inability to meet patients'/family members' expectations, miscommunication with patients, and working alone.

“The [workplace violence] risk in diagnostic radiography and radiation therapy appears extremely high as a result of the aforementioned risk factors,” they wrote.

Moreover, the studies showed that not reporting workplace violence incidents was common, according to the authors.

“This could be attributed to the general perception of health care professionals that the [workplace violence] is an inherent element of health care and such incident reporting can imply their lack of competence in delivering patient care and performing routine duties,” they wrote.

Ultimately, the authors noted that some of the included studies had less representative sample sizes and response rates (such as 1.9 %), indicating potential non-response bias and a study quality issue.

Nonetheless, with international guidelines recommending the implementation of strategies in healthcare organizations to reduce workplace violence, understanding of its prevalence and risk factors is key, they added.

“A [workplace violence] policy should be developed in every clinical workplace," the authors concluded. "Even if such policy is available, its enforcement including policy awareness boosting, and encouraging incident reporting and support seeking will be essential for reducing [workplace violence]."

The full article is available here.

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