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'I had no idea how much aggression paramedics face'


Nursing Times resident student nurse blogger Katrina Michelle Rowan gets a valuable insight into a paramedic’s working day.

I was lucky enough last week to spend a shift with the paramedics. I have always admired paramedics for the work they do, especially when it comes to dealing with the trauma side of the job and acutely ill patients. I requested to work a shift with them as the placement I am currently on gets patients brought directly onto the ward by the paramedics without visiting A&E. I was hoping that spending a shift with the paramedics would give me a valuable insight into the patient’s journey before they reach the hospital. I witnessed the patient’s journey, but I also got a valuable insight into a paramedic’s working life.

I have always thought that when an ambulance has its lights on and sirens going that other road users should automatically get out of the way. What I didn’t expect was some road users to be at times completely oblivious to the fact that an ambulance was behind them complete with lights and sirens and to cause an obstruction so the ambulance couldn’t get through.

We had numerous calls throughout the day, the majority involving having to put lights and sirens on to ensure we got to the patient in time. We took all but one of our patients back to the hospital. The one patient we didn’t take had refused to come with us. For this patient we had had to wait for police assistance before we could enter his home and engage in establishing what the matter was. The patient swore at us and the police, he refused to come with us and also refused to sign a form stating he was refusing care. He was at all times verbally aggressive to the paramedics and the police.

Another patient became incredibly agitated in the ambulance and tried to rip equipment from the ambulance wall as well as trying to grab myself and the paramedic attending him. When we got him into A&E security were swiftly called to monitor him.

When I started the shift I had no idea how much aggression paramedics face daily. I also had no idea about how inappropriate some call outs are. It is of course vital that the public can access appropriate services but wider use and acknowledgement should be made of walk in centres or same day treatment centres. Unfortunately, it seems that some patients are unaware that these facilities exist, or maybe they simply don’t fancy walking to get treatment so will call an ambulance so they can get a lift to the hospital instead!

Before the shift I had always admired paramedics, after spending a 12 hour shift with them they now have my total admiration and respect.


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Readers' comments (3)

  • I know exactly what you mean, Paramedics as well as Nurses do face a ridiculous amount of aggression and disrespect.

    Partly it is our own fault because we accept and put up with it as 'part of the job' and we shouldn't! With some consideration given to those who for whatever reason cannot control their actions of course, I think (and I know this goes against our caring instincts) both Nurses and Paramedics should be a lot quicker to say if you behave like that you will not be treated at all, regardless of the consequences and you will be removed from the hospital/ambulance. THAT is a true no tolerance policy.

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  • I read frequently. It is written by a paramedic in london who used to be an A&E nurse. Interesting, sad and scary at times.

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  • I spent a good number of years as a Paramedic and can completely identify with what you are speaking about. It does get frustrating, but I think it should also be noted that we have to consider a few things. Cars these days are made to be quieter inside and people are actually "busy" in their cars.

    I am not excusing their actions, but rather giving a reason why they may not have heard the sirens, and are mostly not just blatently ignoring ambulances.

    In any case, it all adds the the levels of frustrations paramedics suffer, which ultimately adds to the burnout that myself and many other face late in their careers. I wrote an article about it a while back that you may find informative.

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