Threat of violence won't deter female paramedics

FEMALE paramedics are less likely to face on-the-job violence than their male counterparts says a former paramedic and academic, despite an attack on a female paramedic in George Street, Sydney on February 2.

Charles Sturt University (CSU) academic Sonja Maria says women are generally good at diffusing difficult situations and are less likely to put themselves in danger.

“I feel that as a female we can sometimes de-escalate or diffuse a situation better than men do,” she said.

“We also don’t go into situations that are as risky as men do ... women tend to hang back a little more.

“In some ways, women even have an advantage in that we’re more likely to be able to assist people in need, as we’re less threatening.”

Ms Maria is a lecturer in pre-hospital care in the School of Biomedical Sciences at CSU and has worked in four ambulance services across Australia and New Zealand.

She says paramedics of both sexes feel a sense of duty to help, despite the threat of violence.

“Even when we are single-crewed, or help is not around, we will still assist the needy, tend to the injured and attempt to help where we can,” Ms Maria said. 

“It’s built into our nature and is a part of our paramedic culture.”

“In some ways, women even have an advantage in that we’re more likely to be able to assist people in need, as we’re less threatening"

Ms Maria said an increase in the use of methamphetamines and alcohol meant paramedics were forced to treat increasingly-violent patients, compared to 15 years ago when drug-affected patients would be “chilled out” due to the effects of heroin and marijuana.

“The NSW Ambulance Service says verbal and physical assaults of paramedics have increased in recent years, rising from 89 reported incidents in 2012, to 133 in 2013,” she said.

“Over my 15 years [as a paramedic], I had many situations where I was potentially in danger and a few stick out from memory; working single-crewed, being sent to jobs where police should have attended but were too busy, being chased by mental health patients, being pushed around by intoxicated and drunken party goers.

“We are taught how to handle things as we get trained in some self defence and how to de-escalate volatile situations.”

Ms Maria said ongoing training was vital to ensure paramedics’ safety.

“I feel the dangers have always existed, however, over the years, I haven’t noticed them getting any worse than 15 years ago when I first started as a paramedic,” she said.

Ms Maria said people would continue to aspire to become a paramedic, in spite of the dangers of the job.

“They want to make a difference ... and they also want to drive a vehicle really fast,” she said.


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