Violence Against Emergency Care Provider

There never is a better sight than the arrival of EMS or emergency medical service providers at a crisis situation. These pre-hospital care providers are more often than not the only barrier between patients and imminent damage to their health and sometimes the most crucial link and factor that saves lives before the patients reach hospitals. However, in place of gratitude, these EMS workers are now facing insults, threats, and violence from the very patients whose well-being is their utmost concern and duty.

Although unthinkable, emergency medical providers and ambulance operatives tirelessly working at accident sites, responding to health collapses, and brawl or riot locations are themselves at the receiving end of violence. A lot of EMS journals and websites are full of news where patients and sometimes their immediate family and friends are threatening violence or attacking paramedics. Mostly the contributors to trouble are the use of intoxicants and alcohol induced OD patients.

This shocking trend of violence towards the pre-hospital emergency care providers is steadily on the rise not only in the United States but also in the UK, Australia, and even Crimea. In this line of job, it is often communicated to paramedics that their daily routine could very well include abuses, threats, and even assault. The hazards are inherent in the job of everyday EMS operations but accepting violence as the norm rather than the exception is causing increased stress for workers on the front line of emergency medical care.

In 2017, statistics in the UK revealed that paramedics working for seven of the nation’s 10 national ambulance services are taking off for a huge number of days due to stress, anxiety or other mental health conditions showing a 15% increase in sick calls to work. In the last four years, the NHS regional services had lost 183,962 days as sick leave. ‘Paramedics provide life-saving care, often in stressful circumstances, but the blue lights flashing right now are for the ambulance service. It is unacceptable that such high levels of stress are now seen as part of normal life for ambulance staff,’ opined Tim Farron, Liberal Democrats leader in the UK

EMS responders are often called to incidents where they can be exposed to violence, it is, therefore, the need of the hour to examine the circumstances surrounding these acts and determine ways to mitigate incidents of violence while on duty against the care providers. Studies should provide examples of current best practices along with critical and latest information and policy on how to enhance the safety of paramedics. Paramedics should be better equipped to determine how to stop the attacks before they occur and minimize the physical and psychological effects EMS personnel after the incident.

In 2016, a survey on violence against EMS personnel around the world was presented at the National EMS Safety Summit, Australia. The survey included data from 1,400 emergency medical care responders from seven countries. The survey reported that in contrast to the national average of occupational injury rate of 5.8%, the EMS industry average was 34.6%. Again, while the national average fatality rate for 100,000 workers stands at 5, the EMS industry averages 12.7 workers.

The keys recommendations for avoiding workplace incidents of violence in the EMS industry that invariably lead to stress and depression related health issues among responders were broadly,

  • Firstly, changes to the legislation thereby making stricter penalties for assault on paramedics the rule.
  • Secondly, preparedness on the part of the responder through self-defense trainings, protective gear, and equipments.
  • Thirdly, awareness of the situation and its possibility of escalation, to be aware of workplace policies that can help judge when to escape or engage.

EMS providers are expected to exercise critical thinking and perform life-saving medical decisions and tasks on a daily basis. And in order to successfully do their jobs, they should be equipped with not only the right skills and proper tools but also be imbued with the necessary emotional and psychological resiliency. Violence against the paramedic workers should be duly reported, researched and promptly acted upon. The EMS industry should take a good hard look at their practices and strive to provide their personnel the support and training needed to not only perform well but also to be well.

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