Violence is a Communicable Disease and EMS Can Help Stop It

According to a recent article on CNN there has been a 33 percent increase in violent crime over the last year. Where I work in the emergency department, I have also noticed a big increase in penetrating trauma.

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Prehospital providers are on the front lines of this increase. Now, more than ever, what prehospital providers do is even more important. There has been a growing realization that violence is like a communicable disease. The more people are exposed to violence — second hand or in person — the more likely they are to engage in violence. When a person has someone they know die from a violent act or even if they just read about it in the news it may increase their likelihood of engaging in violence. The care that prehospital providers provide and the lives they save may help reduce other acts of violence in the future.

Trauma registry data from North Carolina has shown that during the first three months of the COVID pandemic the state had a 20 percent increase in penetrating trauma. This has likely increased even more since then. In addition, the number of children suffering significant injuries from child abuse has also increased. According to a recent article in the Winston-Salem Journal, that city has already had 13 homicides this year compared to seven during the same time last year. Given the negative effects on our economy from COVID, the social disruptions, and social isolation this trend will likely continue.

EMS is the first link in the trauma system. Effective care provided by EMS will save lives. Not only can EMS save the life of the person in front of them, but by saving that life EMS can help break the chain of violence. Just one violent death damages our communities in countless ways that I can’t adequately describe in this column. Saving a life can break the chain of violence in several ways.

One obvious example is that it can potentially help prevent revenge killings. Saving a life from violent death can also prevent a child from losing their father. A child who loses a father to violent death can put that child at risk for engaging in future violence. In addition, If EMS can save a life from violent death that is one less news article on the 6:00 news talking about a murder. Constant exposure to news about murders can potentially lead to more acts of violence. One violent death in our community damages our community and can lead to more violence. Any violent death that EMS prevents will help our communities.

The year 2020 was horrible. This year will hopefully be better. I know many EMS providers feel beaten down by the death and disease they have witnessed. EMS providers have also put their lives at risk taking care of many patients with COVID. Please do not forget that what you do is extremely important. Our communities are facing may challenges and increasing violence of a major challenge. Please DO NOT forget that every life you save creates a positive effect on the community and helps break the chain of violence. You make our communities better. Every community where you work is lucky to have you.

Dr. Winslow has worked at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem for the past 11 years. He was appointed as the Medical Director of the NC Office of EMS in 2011. This document contains all protocol, procedures, and policies for all EMS agencies in North Carolina.

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