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Prehospital (EMS) personnel routinely enter patient's homes and often are the first trained persons to evaluate an ill or injured child. Therefore, it is vital for these individuals to recognize child abuse (CA), and to understand the proper procedures for reporting suspected cases.
A questionnaire was administered to prehospital care-givers participating in a seminar on pediatric emergencies. Questions were designed to test factual knowledge of CA and the correct reporting procedures, as well as to evaluate attitudes toward CA.
There were 48 responses to the questionnaire; 34 (71%) were paramedics, the remainder were emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and/or registered nurses (RNs). Thirty-three (69%) practiced either in a rural or suburban setting. Subjects had an average of 10.8 years of prehospital emergency-care experience. Twenty-eight (58%) reported no previous training in CA. All participants understood the nature of CA, were able to identify the various forms of CA, and believed CA to be a significant problem. However, 33 (69%) did not understand the legislation that mandates reporter status, and while 27 (56%) claimed to have reported CA, only 16 (33%) had made a report either to police or to children's services workers. Of the 21 who never had reported a case of CA, 14 (67%) believed that they never had encountered an abused child. The remainder were not certain, and therefore, did not report, or thought that the hospital staff would report.
While this subject deserves further study, it seems that many EMTs and paramedics lack a complete understanding of their role in the identification and reporting of CA. This information should be emphasized further in EMT and paramedic education, and should be reinforced through continuing education.
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