'Accelerating, unchoked violence' is biggest threat to physicians, Duke leader says

Harry Severance, MD, adjunct assistant professor at Durham, N.C.-based Duke University School of Medicine, recently spoke with Becker's to discuss the biggest threats to physicians. 

Question: What is the biggest threat to physicians right now?

Editor's note: This response was edited lightly for length and clarity. 

Dr. Harry Severance: Accelerating, unchoked violence in the healthcare workplace. Seventy-five percent of all assaults now occur in healthcare workplaces — the highest percentage of any industry or workplace in the U.S. Healthcare is now the most unsafe place to work in the U.S. 

One of the main reasons for workers to leave healthcare (4 million to 5 million workers have left healthcare in the last two years — around 20 percent of the entire U.S. healthcare workforce) is fear of being killed or severely injured just because you show up for work. I am now being told by more healthcare workers who reach out for advice that their families are now urging them to find jobs with a safer workplace. 

Meanwhile, little is being done by healthcare and government leaders to stop the violence while we already face a critical increasing shortage of physicians (and other essential healthcare workers). The Association of American Medical Colleges now projects a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by the year 2033.

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