I’ve seen a lot of chatter on social media and reading quite a bit about EMS services now issuing bullet proof vests and providers being allowed to arm themselves. Looking at the available data, consider the following:

  • 67% (95% CI = 63.7%–69.5%) reported that patients had cursed at or threatened them and/or their partner.
  • 45% (95% CI = 42.4%–48.3%) reported patients punching, slapping, or scratching at them.
  • 41% (95% CI = 37.9%–43.7%) said patients spat on them.
  • 4% (95% CI = 2.8%–5.0%) reported patients had they had stabbed, or attempted to stab, them or their partner.
  • 4% (95% CI = 2.5%–4.8%) patient shooting, or attempting to shoot, them.

When looking at the survey results, specifically the low percentages of violent activities, it would appear that bullet proof vests are not needed. However, I do support the notion that if a provider feels bullet proof vests are necessary then they should have access to them. I think a closer, more current look with a larger sample size will create a better perspective on the issue of bullet proof vests. This study is relatively small and would be better served if the questions were more focused.

When it comes to “arming EMS providers” I do think we are far from that. To arm EMS providers would certainly require specific training, educational classes, and buy-in from legislators.

Consider what happens if I defend myself. Do I now have to treat the person I’ve harmed? Would, and should, EMS have to adhere the same standard of trying to deescalate a situation as the police? With the absence of training and ambiguity of the legal system, I do not think arming EMS providers at this point is the answer.

To me, we need better education. Better perceptions from the general public. And most of all a unified EMS front at the national level tasked with moving EMS towards the 22nd-century.