An alarming amount of first responders find themselves abused by their patients. A recent study shined a light on how bad the issue is. Of those polled, 88% of medical first responders admitted they have been abused, in some form, while responding to a call for service.
This includes being threatened, bitten, struck, or even being choked unconscious by a patient. Most first responders have a story of suffering abuse at the hands of those they rushed to help.
In some cases, it is merely the fault of no one but the illness itself. A black eye from a flailing limb is not uncommon. This may be the result of confused panic from a postictal epileptic patient. While this is understandable, it is still painful.
Although, outright abuse and anger is becoming more and more just part of the job for EMTs and paramedics. Some providers find themselves unable to protect themselves in cases dealing with patients who are ultimately at their wits end.
So what can we do?
Most states have extra legal ramifications for those who assault emergency medical services, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping it from happening.
Those who take on the call to serve the public, at its lowest and most vulnerable, understand that they are coming to you on what is likely one of the worst days of your life. Knowing that will never be enough to prevent assault in the future. Those on the front lines know that, but what can be done for those who are in EMS is to know how to protect yourself.
To end the stream of abuse on EMS providers, it is important to acknowledge the work that they do. Responding providers know the journey to the hospital isn’t going to be fun, but they choose to do what they can to make it better. The least the public can do is recognize what they sacrifice for the sake of others.
Furthermore, the public needs to contact their elected officials to see what their plan to fix this issue is. One example of an attempt to combat the problem is the Emergency Medicine Program at the University of Pittsburgh offering self defense classes to EMS students. This includes defense techniques, and learning to read body language before an assault.
Other cities are offering ballistic or slash resistant vests to their EMS, but the fact that is needed is baffling. This leaves us with the question, why are so many medical first responders being assaulted in the first place?