November 2011


Aggressive behaviour

Prevention and management in the general practice environment

Volume 40, No.11, November 2011 Pages 866-872

Moira G Sim

Toni Wain

Eric Khong


Aggressive behaviour is commonly encountered in the general practice setting and can often be de-escalated using good communication skills.


This article provides strategies to reduce and manage early aggression in the general practice environment.


Aggressive behaviour usually occurs when a person feels unfairly treated. Having a systematic approach to the problem can improve safety for both staff and patients. This includes patient centred practice, identifying and managing the early signs of aggression to prevent escalation, having a plan to seek assistance if required, setting limits using a calm respectful manner and reinforcing limits using behaviour contracts when required. The physical layout of the practice and restraint of aggressive people are beyond the scope of this article.

Recent increased attention to aggressive behaviours in healthcare settings reflects a similar perception of violence in the community.1 Aggressive behaviour is common in both urban and rural Australian general practice, with verbal abuse the most common form of aggression experienced by general practitioners and practice staff.2–6 One recent Australian study reported 58% of GPs have experienced verbal abuse by patients.6

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