Objective: To evaluate the experience of prehospital care providers with violence.
Methods: A survey addressing experiences with prehospital violence was administered to a convenience sample of emergency medical services (EMS) providers in a southern California metropolitan area. Descriptive statistics are reported.
Results: Of 774 EMS providers surveyed, 522 (67%) returned the questionnaire. Members of law enforcement were excluded because their experience with violence, weapons, and tactics is not typical of most paramedics. This left a sample of 490 for further analysis. These prehospital care providers had a median of ten years' experience on the job. They tended to be male (93%) and white (80%). All together, 61% recounted assault on the job, with 25% reporting injury from the assault. Respondents reported a median of three episodes, and the number of assaults for each individual was unrelated to the number of years of experience on the job (r = 0.068). Of those injured, 37% required medical attention. On the other hand, 35% reported that their company had a specific protocol for managing violent situations and 28% stated ever having received formal training in the management of violent encounters. This limited training notwithstanding, nearly all (95%) providers described restraining patients. Use of protective gear was reported (73%), and some (19%) admitted to ever carrying a weapon on the job.
Conclusions: By their own report, EMS providers encounter a substantial amount of violence and injury due to assault on the job. Formal training and protocols to provide a standardized safe approach for such encounters are lacking. Although the limitations of survey data are recognized, further research characterizing the level of violence and potential interventions seems warranted.