Abuse of Primary Care Providers Study

Physicians and and nurse practitioners often deal with pressure and abuse during their encounters with patients who are seeking prescriptions for controlled substances (Mediema et al., 2009; Saveland et al., 2014). The type of abuse varies but can include verbal abuse or threat, physical aggression, physical assault, sexual assault or stalking. A recent survey of 178 family physicians in Nova Scotia attending a continuing medical education event found that about 95% of physicians experienced at least one incidence of minor abuse, 48% experienced at least one incident of major abuse, and 17% had experienced at least one incident of severe abuse during their careers. About 82% of the abusers were male with a history of addiction (85%) and mental illness (39%).

Despite the seriousness of this issue very limited empirical evidence exists on the extent of abuse experienced by family physicians/nurse practitioners by patients seeking prescriptions for controlled substances, and no studies have been conducted to date in PEI. Research is important to gain an understanding of the problem in PEI first and foremost for the health and safety of physicians and nurse practitioners in the workplace but also to support physician retention in the Province. Studies have shown that abuse by patients can lead to physicians leaving the field or moving elsewhere to practice (Mediema et al., 2009). Gaining a better understanding of the problem may help in the development of policies, procedures or other strategies to reduce abusive encounters by this patient population and promote primary caregiver health and safety at the workplace.

This study will examine the extent of abuse of family physicians and nurse practitioners in PEI from patients who are seeking controlled substances. The study will build on the Saveland et al. (2014) study to: (1) document the extent of abuse encountered by physicians and nurse practitioners due to use of controlled substances; and (2) obtain feedback from physicians and nurse practitioners on strategies to reduce abusive behavior and promote a safe working environment.

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