Perceptions of paramedic and emergency care workers of those who self harm: a systematic review of the quantitative literature

Nigel Rees, Frances Rapport, Gareth Thomas, Ann John, Helen Snooks
Journal of Psychosomatic Research 2014, 77 (6): 449-56

OBJECTIVE: The U.K. has one of the highest rates of self harm in Europe at 400 per 100,000 of population. Paramedics and emergency staff may be the first professionals encountered, therefore understanding their views and approaches to care is crucial. The aim of this study was to systematically review published quantitative literature relating to paramedic and emergency workers' perceptions and experiences of caring for people who self harm.

METHODS: CINAHL®, MEDLINE®, OVID ® and Psych INFO® databases were searched, PRISMA guidelines were followed, two researchers independently screened titles, abstracts and full papers against a priori eligibility criteria. Data synthesis was achieved by extracting and descriptively analysing study characteristics and findings.

RESULTS: 16 studies met inclusion criteria; one included ambulance staff, all used questionnaires. Training, policies and guidelines improved staff knowledge and confidence in caring for people who self harm. Limited access to training was reported, ranging from 75% to 90% of staff lacking any. Limited departmental guidelines were also reported. Staff in acute settings exhibited increased feelings of negativity, becoming less positive closer to front line care. Recent studies report positive attitudes amongst emergency staff.

DISCUSSION: Despite guidelines indicating need for education and policies to guide staff in self harm care, there is limited evidence of this happening in practice. The lack of literature including paramedics suggests a gap in our understanding about care for self harm patients. This gap warrants greater attention in order to improve care for patients who self harm in their first point of contact.

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