I,ve been doing this job for twenty years now. Over the years there has been a steady decline in society with regards to respect for anything or anyone and a steady increase in the amount and degree of violence directed towards us in the Ambulance Service. And it is getting worse! It is unfortunately becoming the “norm” and we in the Ambulance Service find ourselves more and more having to protect ourselves against people who want to hurt us.
All over the United Kingdom, incidents are being reported on a daily basis of violence against Ambulance staff. These are the incidents that bother to get reported as some Services have a reporting system that would make stealing the Crown Jewels a doddle! Measures differ from area to area on dealing with this growing problem of violence.
Conflict Resolution training is one approach. A recent comment from “Ambusam” detailing a particularly frightening incident highlights the problem. We have all had to deal with irate people shouting at us to move the truck because they need to get out, and we have managed to defuse the situation most of the time. But its the mind set, the mentality of these people which is worrying. If they think that its okay to verbally abuse and physically bully us then it seems that we are fair game for anyone to have a go.
Crew Attacked..click on pic
There have been recent calls for stab vests to be issued as standard PPE (personal protective equipment) to all Ambulance Service front line Paramedics and Technicians. This, I for one, whole heartedly agree with. I want to feel safer until the management and the government take proper notice of what is happening in this country. There is a growing culture of fear within the Ambulance Service, that we are being sent to jobs without proper updates and not getting back up from our controls when we disappear off the system for x amount of time.
Just so long as we hit the great God ORCON times.
We need a change in the culture within our society. People need to be aware of the consequences of their actions. That means that they will go to prison if they are caught assaulting Ambulance/Police/Fire/Nurses etc. And we need our managers to look after us not thinking about the possibilities of the assailant making a complaint against the Ambulance Service.
Fairly recently I attended a male collapsed in the street. It was well past midnight on a dark stretch of road with no one else around. My crew-mate and myself approached the male who was laid out face down on the wet pavement. At this time we did not know if he had been assaulted or was drunk or was indeed suffering from some form of illness. On carefully looking at the scene I spoke to him and gently shook his shoulder…”Hello, are you okay? Can you speak to me?”
One eye opened…looked at me…then closed again. The other eye opened…looked at me again…and that closed also. Then both eyes opened…looked at me…and he muttered “I,m going to f*****g kill you!” Using my skills of power and persuasion and utilising empathy and patience, I tried to pacify him. No chance! Not a hope! This guy was on a mission to kill. As he gradually stumbled to his feet and rose above me I started back tracking to stay out of reach. Again he kept saying that he was going to kill me.
Soon I had nowhere left to go except to step into the road. Thats when he took a swing at me. And thats when he hit the deck! I have not been put on this earth to be any-ones punch bag. Years ago I kept fit by doing a fair bit of martial arts including karate and judo. This was the first time in a lot of years that I had to use it to defend myself. I had thrown him to the floor and got him in an arm lock. My crew-mate was on the radio asking for Police backup. He was eventually arrested and we made our way back to station to do the paperwork.
My next shift on duty I was called in by one of my managers and was asked if I,d hurt him when I defended myself! At no time was I asked if I was okay! I also played down the defence angle as I got the impression that I was heading for a disciplinary! Thats how it is sometimes in the Ambulance Service…we are wrong, and mangers will look for any excuse to stick us on a disciplinary!
The Ambulance Service needs :
- stab vests
- proper support from management
- stiffer sentencing from the courts
- properly working radios and mobiles
- better self defence training
Its not just a question of
…”if one of us dies…its when?”