About three out of five Austin-Travis County EMS medics say they have been physically assaulted more than once on the job in the past two years, a new survey by the department says.
Austin-Travis County EMS conducted an internal survey earlier this year after noticing a worldwide increase in violence against medics, EMS Capt. Darren Noak said Tuesday. EMS officials wanted to do an overall evaluation of the culture of safety within the department, but no specific event led to the surveys being created, he said.
Two surveys were emailed to field medics and communications staff. A total of 210 field medics and 26 communications staff responded to the survey, which found most experienced a physical or verbal assault in the last two years.
The survey found that 22 communications employees said they had been verbally assaulted more than once in the last two years, and 132 field medics said they had been physically assaulted more than once in the last two years, the survey says. Most of the assaults on medics happened in the back of ambulances, while communications staff were often yelled at by 911 callers, Noak said.
Impairment, aggressiveness and mental or behavioral health conditions contributed to the assaults, the survey found.
"It is estimated that even these high numbers do not reflect the true magnitude of assaults on ATCEMS personnel because assaults are likely under-reported and only cases involving injuries are reported most commonly," EMS said in a statement about the survey.
Most of the field medics and communications staff reported that physical assaults and verbal assaults were an unavoidable part of working for the department, the survey found.
The agency said it will create teams to address what the surveys found, and aim to reduce the number of assaults and get better at reporting, training, de-escalation techniques and working with law enforcement.