Paramedics' duty of care despite dangers 'part of the job'

05 February, 2014

A Charles Sturt University (CSU) expert has spoken about the sense of duty paramedics feel, even in awkward or dangerous situations.

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

"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," Maria said.

"It's built into our nature and is a part of our paramedic culture."

The issue of violence against paramedics has re-emerged this week after a female paramedic with the NSW Ambulance Service in central Sydney was hit in the face, pushed to the ground and kicked. The 21 year old man she was trying to treat has been charged with assault.

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.

"Over my 15 years, 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," Maria said.

"The list goes on — some of them quite comical now when I look back, and others definitely were downright dangerous and full of stupidity."

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

"This training could be updated throughout our careers.

"I feel the dangers have always existed. However over the years, I have not noticed them getting any worse than 15 years ago when I first started as a paramedic.

"Most members of the public would think fondly of paramedics and leave us alone when we are trying to help someone.

"Attacks on an individual paramedic are not common and against women would be even less likely.

"As a woman in the profession, I felt that I was less likely to be threatened than a man, and in some ways, even had an advantage in that we were more likely to be able to assist people in need as we were less threatening. It was interesting how that worked at times."