Receptionists are facing serious workplace safety concerns and need training to cope.
A review of published evidenced found that patient aggression toward receptionists working in general practice is a serious workplace concern. The report appeared in the open access journal Family Medicine and Community Health.
Besides the personal toll on the receptionists, the operational effects including increased workplace absenteeism and contributing to the number of staff leaving the health care workforce, according to the research. The studies included more than 4,000 participants.
Every study found that patient aggression toward receptionists was a frequent and routine occurrence. The aggression included verbal abuse, hostility, and use of racist, ableist, and sexist insults. While some studies reported physical violence toward receptionists, these occurred much less frequently than verbal abuse.
The triggers for the acts of aggression were attributed to frustration with appointment scheduling and administrative systems, errors, delayed access to doctors, and prescription refusal. The report notes that receptionists usually tried to placate patients to de-escalate the situation, but at the cost of their own wellbeing and productivity.
These aggressions led to negative feelings, and contributed to receptionist burnout and fatigue.
According to the report, strategies to reduce patient aggression included streamlining scheduling, adding flexible scheduling, providing early availability for appointments, and providing consistent patient management practices. Receptionists reported better patient aggression management when provided with relevant training, had confidence in de-escalation skills, and if there was a formal policy and reliable backup from management.