OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this study were to explore healthcare professionals’ (HCPs) perceptions about patients who had been assaulted, who consult under the influence of alcohol, and to make them aware of their attitudes towards these patients, with a view to improving their care.
DESIGN: An explorative, descriptive study with 15 HCPs purposively selected across professional categories, qualifications,
work experience, gender and age. These HCPs participated in four focus group interviews on intoxicated patients who had been assaulted. The interviews were audio-taped and supplemented with field and observational notes. Themes were identified using the cut-and-paste method and grouped into categories. Findings were subjected to mental triangulation, peer review and member check, and were compared with those in the literature.
SETTINGS AND SUBJECTS: HCPs who treat assault patients within the emergency department (ED) of South Rand Hospital, Rosettenville, comprised the study population. They expressed their perceptions and inner feeling about patients under the influence of alcohol who had been assaulted. Interviews were carried out in the boardroom of the hospital.
OUTCOME MEASURES: HCPs’ awareness of their attitudes towards assaulted patients under the influence of alcohol.
RESULTS: Frustration, anger, a desire to punish intoxicated patients and concern about wastage of hospital resources were some of the stressors experienced by HCPs. Exposure to health hazards and a poor security system were concerns that arose following intimidation, aggression and verbal abuse from alcohol-intoxicated patients who had been assaulted.
CONCLUSION: HCPs experience negative emotions and develop negative attitudes in response to alcohol-intoxicated patients who have been assaulted.