On emergency call violence

On emergency call violence

Ambulances © Nicolas Armer

Those who work in rescue services are often exposed to violence. Punches and kicks are just as common as verbal violence, a study by the German Red Cross shows. In many cases, the reasons are excessive demands on the part of the patients.

Rescue service employees in Germany regularly become victims of verbal or physical violence. That's according to a study published Thursday by the German Red Cross (DRK), for which 425 employees of DRK rescue services were surveyed. Earlier, "Spiegel Online" had reported on the study. In three quarters of the cases, the perpetrators are the patients themselves, but often also their friends or relatives.

The helpers reported at least one incident of violence in the field for a period of twelve months – most frequently verbal attacks such as name-calling or insults. These occur at almost one in five even at least once or twice a week. A good 40 percent of respondents are affected exclusively by verbal violence, while about a third describe both verbal and physical assaults. 14.1 percent report exclusively physical assaults.

Many of the rescue service employees are affected by such incidents once or twice a month, he said. "Accordingly, it is not possible to speak of a singular event for the individual employee in the rescue service," explained study director Peter Sefrin.

Verbal and physical violence

According to the study, the most common form of verbal abuse was insults (91.1 percent), followed by threats of violence (55.3 percent with multiple responses). In the case of physical assaults, the victims reported mainly punching and kicking (32.7 percent) and pushing (31.5 percent).

Every second assault happens in inner cities, many in social hot spots and mostly in the evening or at night, the study says. The incidents often occurred around large events of all kinds; alcohol or drugs played a significant role.

Study sees increasingly excessive demands by patients on ambulance staff as reasons for violence. Unlike in the past, more patients tried to enforce these claims with violence.

DRK president calls for training and prosecution

"The results are frightening. Unfortunately, we have to conclude that insults, verbal abuse and physical assaults have become part of everyday life in the rescue service," said DRK President Gerda Hasselfeldt, commenting on the results. Staff would have to be even better trained to deal with such situations and offenders would have to be consistently prosecuted. Three quarters of respondents also want training.

In the non-representative study, a total of 425 voluntarily completed questionnaires from emergency medical technicians, paramedics, EMTs and other rescue service employees were evaluated. The data was collected from August to November 2019. Nearly 74 percent of respondents were men and primarily between 18 and 29 years old.

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