Doctors nationwide are reporting an increase in violence in emergency rooms, according to a survey conducted by Marketing General Incorporated.

The survey found 47 percent of emergency room physicians reported they had been assaulted on the job, and 60 percent of those assaulted said it had happened within the last year.

The survey received responses from 3,539 doctors. The survey not only indicates that a majority of doctors see violence on the job, but they have seen an increase in violence over the past five years.

The results were presented at a meeting this week for the American College for Emergency Physicians alongside research on violence in Michigan emergency rooms.

The survey found 71 percent of doctors had seen a coworker assaulted in the emergency. The patient was responsible 97 percent of the time, though the survey found family or friends of the patient were also involved 28 percent of the time. Only 1 percent reported it was a colleague.

Most doctors reported they had either never been assaulted or only assaulted once. Only 3 percent had been assaulted six or more times. That 3 percent were asked how frequently assaults happen, with 46 percent reporting they were assaulted multiple times a month.

The form assaults took included being punched, kicked, slapped, spat on and bitten, with 2 percent saying they were attacked with a weapon and one percent reporting they were sexually assaulted.

Last week an Idaho Falls woman was arrested after she spat in a police officer’s eye and hit him in the groin at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. While being treated, the defendant threatened the officers, doctors and nurses in the emergency room, saying she would kill them. Other reported hospital assaults at EIRMC include a 2015 incident where a patient punched a nurse and attempted to wrap his legs around the victim’s neck. A few months after that incident, a patient bit a firefighter and a nurse. In 2016, a woman was arrested after she kicked a nurse during treatment.

Under Idaho law such incidents can be charged as felony battery against a healthcare worker, punishable with up to three years in prison. Incidents involving police, firefighters and paramedics can be charged as battery against certain personnel, punishable with up to five years in prison.

A majority of doctors, 69 percent, said they had seen an increase in violence over the past five years. When asked to rate potential solutions a plurality of doctors, 49 percent, said increasing security was the best way to prevent further assaults.

“More needs to be done,” Vidor Friedman, president of ACEP, said in a news release. “Violence in emergency departments is not only affecting medical staff, it is affecting patients. When violence occurs in an emergency department, patients can be injured or traumatized to the point of leaving without being seen. It also can increase wait times and distract emergency staff from focusing on other patients who urgently require a physician’s assistance.”

Reporter Johnathan Hogan can be reached at 208-542-6746.


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