Violence Against Paramedics: Protocol for Evaluating 2 Years of Reports Through a Novel, Point-of-Event Reporting Process

JMIR Res Protoc. 2023 Mar 16:12:e37636. doi: 10.2196/37636.


Background: Violence against paramedics has been described as a serious public health problem with the potential for significant physical and psychological harm, but the organizational culture within the profession encourages paramedics to consider violence as just "part of the job." Therefore, most incidents of violence are never formally documented. This limits the ability of researchers and policy makers to develop strategies that mitigate the risk and enhance paramedic safety.

Objective: Following the development and implementation of a novel, point-of-event violence reporting process in February 2021, our objectives are to (1) estimate the prevalence of violence and generate a descriptive profile for incidents of reported violence; (2) identify potentially high-risk service calls based on characteristics of calls that are generally known to the responding paramedics at the point of dispatch; and (3) explore underpinning themes, including intolerance based on gender, race, and sexual orientation, that contribute to incidents of violence.

Methods: Our work is situated in a single paramedic service in Ontario, Canada. Using a convergent parallel mixed methods approach, we will retrospectively review 2 years of quantitative and qualitative data gathered from the External Violence Incident Report (EVIR) system from February 1 2021 through February 28, 2023. The EVIR is a point-of-event reporting mechanism embedded in the electronic patient care record (ePCR) developed through an extensive stakeholder engagement process. When completing an ePCR, paramedics are prompted to file an EVIR if they experienced violence on the call. Our methods include using descriptive statistics to estimate the prevalence of violence and describe the characteristics of reported incidents (Objective 1), logistic regression modeling to identify high-risk service calls (Objective 2), and qualitative content analysis of incident report narratives to identify underpinning themes that contribute to violence (Objective 3).

Results: As of January 1, 2023, 377 paramedics-approximately 1 in 5 active-duty paramedics in the service-have filed a total of 975 violence reports. Early analysis suggests 40% of reports involved a physical assault on the reporting paramedic. Our team is continuing to collect data with more fulsome analyses beginning in March 2023. Our findings will provide much-needed epidemiological data on the prevalence of violence against paramedics in a single paramedic service, its contributing themes, and potential risk factors.

Conclusions: Our findings will contribute to a growing body of literature demonstrating that violence against paramedics is a complex problem that requires a nuanced understanding of its scope, risk factors, and contributing circumstances. Collectively, our research will inform larger, multisite prospective studies already in the planning stage and inform organizational strategies to mitigate the risk of harm from violence.

International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/37636.

Keywords: abuse; emergency; emergency medical services; epidemiological; epidemiology; harm; implementation; mixed methods; occupational health; paramedic; point-of-event: development; reporting; safety; violence; work; workplace violence.