NOLA EMS providers take self-defense course as violence against health care pros intensifies

The nonprofit New Orleans EMS Foundation funded the new class on recognizing and responding to hazards and teaching these skills to coworkers


Missy Wilkinson
The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

NEW ORLEANS — Even though he's physically imposing at 5'10" and 400 muscular pounds, Captain Stanley Woods says he's been punched, bitten, spit on and kicked during his 10 years as a paramedic.

"Any patient can turn into an attacker," Woods said.

Violence against front-line workers—both in the hospital and out in the field—is "the dirty little secret of health care," said Jason Brooks, president and CEO of Defensive Tactics 4 Escaping Mitigating Surviving.

That's why Brooks puts on a class to help prepare health care workers for the unexpected.

Nine EMS workers gathered Friday at the NOPD's Training Facility and listened intently as Capt. Jerome Baudy Jr. explained tactics for de-escalating and defending against violent encounters on the job.

"We can't control what these people are going to do," said Baudy, who sports a Superman pendant and a soul patch. "They could be angry because you're so nice and still punch you in the face. That's where our techniques come into play."

Injuries stemming from assault are the most common reason health care workers take time off from work, according to Bureau of Labor statistics—even though approximately 61% of them go unreported to police or hospital administrators, Brooks said. Act. No 129, signed into Louisiana law by Gov. John Bel Edwards this year, made any assault against a health care worker a felony.

And attacks on health care workers have become more severe in recent years, Brooks said, citing pandemic-related stress. Earlier this year, a man broke the jaw of an ICU nurse at Ochsner Medical Center in Gretna. On Thursday in New York City, a uniformed paramedic was fatally stabbed while on duty in a random attack.

"We're the only profession in the world that has to determine patient or attacker in a split second, which makes us unique," said Brooks.

EMS providers receive some defensive training, but this month marks the first time the five-day course was offered to NOLA EMS workers. The first two days were spent teaching workers to recognize hazards, deescalate violence, escape and defend themselves. In the final three days, participants learned how to teach these skills to their coworkers. The participants in the class will teach what they learned to 140 peers. The training cost around $9,000 and was funded by the nonprofit New Orleans EMS Foundation, according to Capt. Janick Lewis.

"It's time to bring light to the subject," Baudy said. "I've been around when we had to restrain patients. People have attempted to jump out of ambulances. There have been serious injuries—people being bit, punched...

"We accept the inherent dangers, but it doesn't mean we want to be hurt."

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(c)2022 The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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