63% of medics report being assaulted on the job in last 2 years, new survey finds

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A high number of emergency medical personnel in Austin and Travis County report being verbally and physically assaulted while responding to callers and scenes, according to a new survey by Austin-Travis County EMS.

The survey found 63% of field personnel reported being assaulted more than once in the last two years and 86% of communications staff reported being verbally assaulted in the same time frame.

“It is estimated that even these high numbers do not reflect the true magnitude of assaults on ATCEMS personnel because assaults are likely under-reported and only cases involving injuries are reported most commonly,” officials wrote in a press release Tuesday.

Another finding of the study showed that a high percentage of ATCEMS personnel thought that workplace violence was unavoidable.

“More than 69% of Field personnel agreed with a statement that said assaults are an unavoidable risk of an EMS career and 94% of Comm personnel said that verbal assaults on duty in the communication center are an unavoidable risk,” officials wrote.

In the field, emergency personnel said they were usually providing “direct patient care,” and were usually in the back of an ambulance when assaults take place.

They also reported the top factors they believed contributed to the violence included when the attacker was impaired, showing aggressive behavior or possibly showed signs of mental or behavioral health conditions.

Over the phone, personnel said they were most likely to be verbally assaulted when people showed aggressive behavior, were in highly emotional environments or were possibly showing signs of mental or behavioral health conditions.

“Although 100% of ATCEMS personnel receive situational awareness training, additional training in recognition of the potential for aggressive behavior, escape planning, threat avoidance, and de-escalation may be needed,” officials wrote.

ATCEMS officials have other suggested solutions to help reduce the amount of violence emergency personnel have to deal with:

  • Collaborative training with police and people in the legal system
  • Training EMS Commanders to respond and followup with personnel who report assault
  • Efforts should be made to get feedback from personnel about what kind of support they need from the department
  • Further studies should be conducted about cultural elements, its drivers and how it connects to industry ideals as the “EMS Culture of Safety.”

ATCEMS officials said based on the findings and recommendations of this survey, an improvement team will be assembled to reduce assaults on personnel.

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