Fire/emergency medical services Workplace violence Research/studies

Study shows paramedics rarely report assault injuries; lack prevention training

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Philadelphia – Emergency medical technicians and paramedics are 14 times more likely than firefighters to be assaulted on the job but rarely report assault-related injuries, according to a study from Drexel University.

Researchers examined data from the FEMA-funded Firefighter Injury Research and Safety Trends project and interviewed paramedics who were injured by patients.

During interviews, paramedics said they did not receive training on how to handle violent patients or on how to protect themselves. They also said dispatchers provide inadequate information on situations and are slow in sending backup. Researchers found that workers rarely report assault injuries and regard them as “part of the job.”

Responders have high burnout rates due to high stress, researchers concluded. Suggestions to help paramedics include highlighting locations where previous assaults occurred and posting signs in ambulances that state that assaulting a first responder is a felony. Another possibility is training first responders in “community paramedicine,” in which responders help individuals who use mobile medical units for their care.

“First responders are an interesting group. They go in because they want to help, and when they go in they encounter these situations they never got training for,” Jennifer Taylor, associate professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health and study lead investigator, said in the release.

The study was published online Jan. 4 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

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