PARAMEDICS need more training to support victims of domestic violence, a landmark pilot study has found.
The research, published in the Emergency Medicine Australasia journal, revealed 90 per cent of paramedics had attended a case of domestic violence in the past year, while four in five said they felt less than confident about managing the situation.
Monash University researcher Dr Brett Williams said the study, which surveyed 50 paramedics in the ACT, was the first to examine Australian paramedics’ knowledge of domestic violence.
While 74 per cent had received some instruction on how to deal with domestic violence, less than half said they received continuing training.
One in five Australian women suffers domestic violence at least once in their adult life, and it is the greatest cause of preventable death and ill-health for women aged between 15 and 44, according to VicHealth.
Dr Williams said paramedics in Victoria were compelled to report child abuse to police, but not cases of domestic violence.
”If the partner is in the lounge room when the paramedics arrive, the victim may not want to disclose anything.”
He said in that case paramedics should be compelled to report domestic violence to police.
”It is a contentious issue,” he said. ”If reporting the abuse leads to better diagnoses, care and ongoing management, that has to be a positive thing for the paramedic and the client.”
The executive officer of the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, Virginia Geddes, said victims should be encouraged and supported to report domestic violence but she did not favour mandatory reporting by paramedics.
”It is disempowering,” Ms Geddes said.
”You are actually taking the agency away from the person who is the victim of violence.”
Domestic Violence Victoria policy officer Alison Macdonald warned that mandatory reporting might also dissuade victims from calling for help.
One graduate paramedic said his university course had included classes on how to identify signs of child and domestic abuse, but there was no substitute for on-the-job training.
”Paramedics can pick up the feel of the room,” the 24-year-old said.
He said students were taught how to detect injuries that were inconsistent with a patient’s age.
”Broken femurs in a three-month-old and things like that – we are taught a lot about how to identify injuries that are a bit shady,” he said.
”Adults can hurt themselves any old way so it’s a bit more difficult, but you can definitely tell. Usually there will be a lot of emotions involved, not just pain. You can see a lot of sadness and fear in the person as well.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.