There is no doubt about it; paramedics have a high paced, stressful job. These men and women are dealing with patients at their worst possible moments, and sometimes the situations can turn physically and verbally abusive. From patients shouting and fighting against treatment, to other colleagues taking stress out on fellow paramedics, the job can take a toll.
A bigger problem than suspected
A recent study shows more than two-thirds of paramedics have experienced verbal, physical or sexual abuse on the job. “EMS providers can experience violence in the workplace as they perform their jobs in unpredictable environments and near people in crisis,” said Blair Bigham, the lead investigator.
“Anecdotal reports and workplace safety records have highlighted cases of verbal, physical and sexual abuse, yet until now, there has been little scientific research. More research is needed to understand the impact of this workplace violence.”
A personal story
Heidi Benal, a 37-year-old paramedic in Ontario says she loves her job, but it comes with difficulties. “This job can be extremely rewarding. When I help save a life in the field there is nothing like it, but that’s not the only aspect to this job,” she said. “Most paramedics are men and while the majority of my colleagues treat me fairly, there are some that still have a backwards mentality and don’t believe woman belong in such a high stress job.”
Here are the highlights of the study:
Verbal abuse reported by 68%
Intimidation was reported by 41%
Physical abuse was reported by 26%
Sexual harassment was reported by 14%
Sexual assault was reported by 3%
EMS workers in Ontario and Nova Scotia were invited to participate in this study while attending a continuing education seminar in 2011 and 90 per cent responded. They were asked if they had directly been the victims of various forms of violence within the previous 12 months. Of the 1,381 paramedics surveyed, 70 per cent were male with a median age of 34 and 10 years experience in EMS.