Paramedics facing abuse on the job

Colleagues often cited as perpetrators of verbal abuse, intimidation: Study
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/26/2012

In his five years as a paramedic, Blair Bigham has seen his share of ill-treatment on the job, including being assaulted by a patient.

“The intimidation and abuse comes from both family and patients, which isn’t necessarily because they’re ill-mannered or bad willed, it’s mostly because they’re in stressful situations and when you call 911, it’s usually the worst day of your life,” said Bigham, an advanced care flight paramedic for York Region Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Ontario.

Bigham’s experience is not unusual, according to a study he co-authored. More than two-thirds of paramedics have experienced verbal, physical or sexual abuse on the job. And those numbers might be lower than reality because many paramedics don’t report these types of events to employers, said Bigham, who is also an associate scientist at Rescu, a research group at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.