Poll: more nurses than physicians experience patient harassment — 8 key insights

Significantly more nurses than physicians have been harassed by a patient, according to a Medscape poll.

Here are eight things to know:

1. Medscape Medical News posed the poll questions on Dec. 20. There were 1,045 responses, including 569 nurses, 408 physicians and 68 other healthcare providers.

2. A majority of nurses — 71 percent — said they have been harassed by a patient, compared to 47 percent of physicians. The poll asked about sexual harassment, inappropriate communication and physical threats.

3. More than twice as many women took the poll as men. While 41 percent of the physicians were female, 90 percent of nurses and 66 percent of other healthcare providers were female.

4. Female nurses and physicians were much more likely to report being sexually harassed than their male counterparts — 73 percent of female nurses and 46 percent of male nurses and 58 percent of female physicians and 39 percent of male physicians said they had been sexually harassed by patients.

5. Physicians were more likely to report that a patient had tried to inappropriately communicate with them online or through social media — 39 percent — than nurses —22 percent.

6. Nearly all male nurses — 96 percent — and 84 percent of female nurses said they had been physically threatened by a patient, compared with 61 and 63 percent of male and female physicians, respectively.

7. Physicians with 21 years of experience or more experienced less harassment. Nurses at all levels experienced consistent harassment, but nurses with 10 years of experience received fewer patient attempts at inappropriate online communication.

8. A 2015 meta-analysis in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law estimated the prevalence of patient harassment could be as high as 20 percent. Several commentators claimed that drug dependency led to the threats and violence.

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