Report: More EMT workers being assaulted on the job

Published: Mar. 3, 2020 at 3:41 AM CST
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Experts say more Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) workers are being assaulted, and it's an issue becoming more common.

"The CDC has reported that there are 2,000 annual injuries to EMT professionals based on violence-related incidents,” said Fiona Johnson, Paramedic Director with Johnson County Ambulance Service. She adds that the number is 22 times higher than the national average for the normal.

Now, researchers at the University of Iowa are trying to figure out how to make jobs for EMTs safer. In a

released by UI, researchers say more than 57% of EMT workers say they have been attacked while out on a call. They say paramedics may work in dangerous situations without police or fire there to back them up.

Workers with Johnson County Ambulance Service gave TV9 a glimpse of what life is like for EMT workers.

Dylan Reed has seen plenty during his seven years with Johnson County EMS. He has many stories about lives saved but also about lives in danger including his own.

"Somebody can go from you know friendly,” said Reed. “To a best friend to mad and they start swinging.”

Reed says they are trained to talk to people to calm them down, but they know how to restrain someone if a situation escalates.

"We just try to distance ourselves, our partner will pull over, we will call for law enforcement,” said Reed. “Essentially it's just we're trying to defend ourselves until we can get a police officer to help us out.”

Johnson County recently upgraded one of its trucks for safety reasons. It's called Adam 28.

One of the features is a camera that lets the driver watch the backseat to make sure the paramedic treating the patient isn't running into problems

"It really kind of is a lifeline for the paramedics in the back,” said Reed. Johnson County leaders say someone attacked one of their EMT workers so far this year. While the safety of their workers is paramount, they're also worried about the person attacking them.

"A lot of times it isn't a deliberate attack. It could be because their physical, mental condition that they're currently not able to make those rational decisions,” said Johnson.

Reed wants people to know that when they take off to answer a call, they are here to help.

"I don't know if it's a lack of resources that the state is offering for mental health, or it's just a change in culture where people don't value human life like they did in the past. It's really hard to say," he said.

Paramedics also go through 40-hour intervention training put on by Johnson County.

Researchers did their study over a two-year span. They say they would like to see even more multi-agency training with paramedics, police and fire responders. That includes some live training simulations.