Episode 26: A study on Violence in EMS, Body Armor, and scene safety

In this episode Jeremy "The GT Medic" and I discuss the recent article (Study: Paramedics’ Risk of Being Assaulted Exceeds Firefighting Colleagues) from Drexel University about Violence in EMS. Published on January 20th, the article gives and overview of a recent study about the comparison of violence encountered by EMS and Fire Fighters.  According to the article Paramedics are 14 times more likely to be assaulted. This data comes from the study "Expecting the unexpected: A mixed methods study of violence to EMS responders in an urban fire department" published in the 'The American Journal of Industrial Medicine.' The data, while through and extensive, only tells part of the story. From the Drexel University article and the study, it is easy to see that not all incidence are reported. It also left some of the subjects of the study asking questions. "Does responding emergency to non-emergent calls not increase the stress and risk we face?, Does the shear volume of calls not also add to the stress which could lead to violence.?" 

The article, Body armor for EMS: Is it time for every medic to wear a ballistic vest?, asks a great question but the answer, while maybe not obvious to everyone, is--NO. We live in a dangerous world and as Pre-Hospital Professionals we put ourselves in harms-way every time we respond to a call, but to say that every EMS provider needs a vest is simply not true. We know that some areas have higher crime rates, are more dangerous and increase the risk for violence. However, not ALL these areas are going to require providers to 'gear-up' just to provide medical care. The study mentioned at the beginning only looked at one service in the 'inner-city' and did not answer the question, "Are these numbers realistic for ALL services across the U.S.?" While money should never be a factor when we discuss safety, often times it is which can be the biggest factor in allowing 'every medic to receive a ballistic vest.'

What we can take away from these two articles and one study is that being a public servant is dangerous. We need to remain vigilant at all times. In school, we live in the mythical world where when a student says, "scene safe" the scene is declared safe for the rest of the scenario. But, however, we know that is not always true in the real world.

As you watch/listen to this week's episode, think about your own practices and the inherent danger you face every day. Are you safe? What makes your scene unsafe?