Four in five medics have experienced some kind of injury or medical condition as a result of their work, according to the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians Experiences with Emergency Medical Services Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive.
A total of 1,356 NAEMT members participated in the survey, jointly commissioned by NAEMT and McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals, and reported that:
- More than one in two (52%) have been assaulted by a patient;
- One in two (50%) have been exposed to an infectious disease;
- Almost one in two (47%) have sustained back injury while performing EMS duties; and
- One in five (21%) have contracted an illness from a patient.
“Clearly, these findings are striking, and point to an important issue that isn’t being addressed to the level it should,” said NAEMT President-Elect Jerry Johnston. “NAEMT needs to take the lead on assuring that EMS workers on the streets and riding in ambulances every day have the necessary personal protective equipment and training that they need to be safe. We must work closely with other national organizations and our federal partners to assure that EMTS and paramedics can do their jobs without putting themselves in harm’s way.”
Despite the dangers associated with EMS work, most survey respondents reported that they find their EMS work to be both satisfying and challenging. Only one in five (21%) ranked their personal safety as their top concern about their EMS work. Instead, the concerns cited most often by respondents were:
- Training and education of EMS personnel;
- Quality of patient clinical care; and
- Funding for EMS.
When asked, “What do you value most about working in EMS?” 87% of those surveyed said “the opportunity to help people in need,” 63% cited “the opportunity to give back to the community,” and 62% each noted “the opportunity to work in a variety of settings” and “the desire to work in a medical profession.” The more pragmatic reasons for working in EMS included the fast-paced work environment and the flexible schedule.
Of those surveyed, 64% work as paramedics and 36% are EMTs; 80% are paid and 20% are volunteers; 66% of the paid workers are full-time employees, and 14% are paid part-time employees.
Paid EMS workers were asked about their wages, and 39% said they receive $11 to $20 per hour, with 11% earning less than $10 per hour. A majority of those surveyed (65%) said that they are not adequately compensated for their work.
The survey, conducted in June and July 2005, also asked some questions about EMS training and found that while three in five surveyed (62%) agreed that there is adequate training for EMS personnel in their communities, two-thirds (66%) said that the EMS team in their community is not adequately prepared for the possibility of a terrorist attack or natural disaster.