Being attacked by a patient is something which most EMS providers have faced at one point in their careers. By nature of the work we do, serving an entire population of individuals, we’re put into situations where AMS, drug and alcohol use, violent intent, mental illness, or psychological distress make us valid targets in the eyes of the person we’re trying to help. Sometimes these attacks come out of nowhere, seemingly, because we (as rational people) make the mistake of assuming that the people we treat will also act within a certain set of guidelines and social rules which, frankly, go out the window when one of the above factors comes into play. So how do we avoid it, and how do we deal with it when it does happen? Let’s discuss.
“I’ll fight you”
It’s long been the tradition, with good reasons, that EMT’s and Paramedics are noncombatants when it comes to the “field of battle” that is public safety work. The medical provider was seen as a neutral party, there to serve the needs of the injured and ill without judgment as to the causes of either.
Now, however, having been forced into the role of arbiter in some cases when it comes to a person needing to go to the hospital regardless of their wishes, the perception has changed. As with the trend for the rest of public safety, many of our patients feel freer to challenge authority and, indeed, fight out against it physically – it’s now seen as permissible by far more people than it used to be, with less fear of repercussion for various reasons. Some of that stems from a reduction in trust due to the media’s tendency to only report the bad actors among our ranks, and a “lumping in” of EMS with a general notion of public safety which also encompasses police officers, despite vastly differing roles.
As a result, attacks on providers seem to have increased over the last few years – and they’re not just limited to simply taking a swipe at us, but rather coming at us with the intent to maim, injure, or even kill. We, however, are still constrained by the legal and ethical ramifications of being medical providers. Unlike a police agency, we have no “use of force” policy because we are never supposed to use force as part of our jobs, aside from perhaps restraint policies for combative patients which focus more upon controlling them than defending ourselves. Given that it’s nobody’s job to be injured by someone, however, there are alternatives to be had when it comes to both defending yourself and maintaining the professional role that we play as prehospital providers.
“I’ll prevent you from hurting me”
Defensive Tactics for EMS focuses more upon prevention and escape than on any offensive strategy, because simply put, even the most experienced martial arts instructors will tell you that the best way to prevent being hurt is not to get into the fight. The police have to go hands-on to end a threat, but we do not.
Given that there is little national resource available for EMS on appropriate tactics and education around the topic, Blauer decided to help sponsor a series of videos by a nationally-known EMS Defensive Tactics instructor, Kip Teitsort. The first of those videos appear below, but the entire 12-video course is free and may be viewed with no signup required at https://www.blauer.com/emsdefense .
Please consider sharing the link with others that you work with – the intent is to educate, not to get you to sign up to learn more about our EMT pants or send you other marketing materials. We hope it proves useful for you, and that you learn something which might someday help prevent you from becoming a statistic on the chart of EMS providers who were injured or killed by their patient.