Paramedics in need of community’s help

Last week, in a controversial incident that has been debated on social media, a Melton South footballer who broke his leg playing in a Ballarat Football League match was left in severe pain for two hours.

This happened because paramedics fled the scene after reportedly being verbally abused and threatened by people at the scene (a claim which the Ballarat Football League has denied).

When violence against our paramedics is reported in the media, it generally provokes a reaction of outrage from the community.  

However, we must remember this abuse is not happening in a far-off place.

It is happening in our community, by members of our community.  

While none of us think that we would ever do anything like that, when placed in a stressful environment people often react in unexpected ways.    

Up to 95 per cent of healthcare workers have experienced violence from a patient or bystander. The question must be asked, how did we let it get this bad?

One of the main reasons is that as a community we have accepted it, we let it become normalised.  

A significant barrier to reducing violence in healthcare is that it has become expected in everyday practice.   

When violence is seen as just part of the job for paramedics and other healthcare workers, it becomes almost impossible to prevent.  

To reduce the impact of violence, we need to make sure that such violence is not seen as normal.

We must make this unacceptable behaviour a big deal.  

Our ambulance services and governments are all working hard to overcome this problem.

But they also need the help of the community.  

Those in the community who depend on our paramedics in a medical crisis need to become advocates for their safety.  

Everybody needs to be aware that any form of violence or aggression against paramedics and other healthcare workers is completely unacceptable.  

If anyone assaults our paramedics, it is the responsibility of the community to do something about it.

Fortunately, there are some very simple and practical things that people can do to help our paramedics and all other healthcare workers.

Firstly, people should seek to raise awareness, both in conversation and via social media.

They should always treat every healthcare worker with respect – a little bit of kindness on your part goes a long way.

In the event of an emergency, they should try to be the calming influence with family and friends.

Anyone who feels overwhelmed in a crisis should remove themself from the situation to collect their thoughts.  

Anyone who sees violent behaviour should report it immediately to healthcare staff or call the police.

The fact is, occupational violence is always unfair.

This month, it was a footballer who suffered for a long time because of someone else’s actions.  

More often, it is paramedics and other healthcare workers who are left physically battered and emotionally distressed.  

Brodie Thomas is a post-graduate researcher at La Trobe University.  The topic of his thesis is the most prevalent dangers facing emergency healthcare workers with a focus on occupational violence.