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Verbally Abusive Calls Common for Ambulance Staff

Better techniques to deal with abusive callers are required

WEDNESDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- Over 80 percent of ambulance control room staff are subjected to verbally abusive calls in the course of their work, either from patients, physicians or nurses, according to the results of a U.K. study published online March 26 in the Emergency Medicine Journal.

Christine A. Sprigg, M.Sc., of the University of Sheffield in the U.K., and colleagues conducted a questionnaire-based survey of 48 ambulance control room staff to ascertain the prevalence of verbally abusive calls, the perceived cause of the abuse, the psychological impact on staff and the implications for organizational management.

On every shift, a reported 7 percent of the average 59 calls were verbally abusive, and over 80 percent of respondents reported receiving at least one verbally abusive call per shift. Patients were the most likely abusers, but doctors and nurses were also perpetrators.

Frustration, anxiety and misunderstanding of the control room staff's job were the most commonly cited reasons, followed by callers being drunk, unaware of how the National Health Service system works, or being frightened or on drugs.

"Verbally abusive calls were associated with staff having poorer mental health and the desire to leave," the authors write. "Support from managers in the form of clear protocols to deal with abusive callers and training in verbal de-escalation techniques are recommended," they conclude.

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