When responding to emergency medical calls, threats of violence to EMS workers can come from patients, family members or even bystanders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 2,600 EMS workers received hospital treatment in 2014 for injuries resulting from work-related violence.
Last year, researchers published an article that investigated injuries to paramedics and emergency medical technicians from patient-initiated violence. These EMS workers were employed by a large, urban fire department. Here’s what the researchers found:
- EMS workers are more likely to be assaulted by patients than firefighters. Gender is not the determining factor of who gets assaulted.
- There is a disconnect between EMS workers in the field and the dispatchers who collect information about the medical emergency.
- There is a general lack of knowledge and skill on how to prevent violent attacks on EMS workers from occurring. Free online training opportunities, like this National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health course, can help to address this issue.
- Signage in the back of ambulances that states, “It is a felony to assault a first responder,” may deter patients from assaulting EMS workers. Such signage is widely used in Canada and the United Kingdom. In addition to informing the public, such a sign shows fire department support for EMS workers.
- The department’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system should utilize a flag that dispatchers can use to alert EMS workers that a destination is the location of a previous patient-initiated violent injury. This is already in use in urban departments in Dallas and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
- The fire department can reduce EMS worker stress levels by evaluating opportunities to add more personnel to the roster, ensuring EMS workers have food and rest breaks during their shifts to encourage recovery from work, and supporting them during legal proceedings after an assault occurs.
Taylor, J. A., Barnes, B., Davis, A. L., Wright, J., Widman, S., & Levasseur, M. (2016). Expecting the unexpected: A mixed methods study of violence to EMS responders in an urban fire department. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 59(2), 150-163. doi:10.1002/ajim.22550
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