Steff Dewhurst had only been a paramedic for six months when she was first assaulted on the job.
The New Zealand-born woman had moved to Melbourne to pursue her dream of “working in an ambulance full-time” even though it meant leaving behind her family and friends to live in a country where she knew just two people.
So it was a horrific welcome to Australia when, less than a year in, she was “punched in the face” by a patient. However, as Steff shared in a powerful Facebook post last week, this wouldn’t be the worst thing that would happen to her at work.
Steff experienced true “terror” when a patient threatened to rape and murder her. It was an encounter that gave her nightmares for weeks.
Steff said the patient told her he was going to "stalk" her.
"He detailed how he was going to find out where I lived, attack me, rape me and then strangle me to death," she wrote.
At this point the man was escorted from the hospital, but little did she know at the time, he had walked to the ambulance bay, where he was waiting for her to come out.
"As I walked outside to make the stretcher he came for me, yelling. I have never run so fast in my life," she recalled.
"I had nightmares for weeks. It rattled me to my absolute core and to this day, I still remember my heart racing as I ran from him."
Steff described that moment as "one of the few times I have genuinely felt terror".
"I was too afraid to walk back to the ambulance so my colleagues walked me to the truck so we could leave the hospital."
And Steff's experience is not a once-off, totally irregular event. The paramedic said assault, intimidation and harassment from members of the public happens all too often to her and her fellow emergency service workers.
"The sad and disgusting thing is that almost every one of my colleagues also has a story about the violence they have faced as a paramedic. This is not what we signed up for and it is not okay."
"It is NOT okay to assault paramedics. And we have had enough," she concluded the post.
Her raw and honest Facebook post shocked the thousands of people who shared, reacted to and commented on it since she posted it on Thursday.
Steff told Mamamia she was not expecting the "massive" response and that she shared her story to shine a light on a side of her job that is rarely spoken about.
"I just wanted to highlight the fact that abuse and assaults towards us - and us is an umbrella term for police, doctors, nurses, firefighters - is a lot more common than people realise.
"It’s a side of the job that’s usually not ever talked about or highlighted and this is our chance to have a voice."
Steff is referring to the campaign that Ambulance Victoria's paramedics are running now. Drivers in the state will notice many vans have the message: "It is not okay to assault paramedics" written on the back window.
However, Steff also wanted to make it clear she "loves" her job.
"I don’t think you’ll find a single person who accidentally became a paramedic. It’s the type of job that chooses you in a sense," she told Mamamia.
"It’s so rewarding and we are so lucky to work in a profession where the public completely trust us literally with their lives, their children, their families.
"The general population are so respectful and caring and it’s an unfortunate few who make it tough for us. But we all stick together."
Steff said she has also gotten plenty of support from her employer, Ambulance Victoria.
"Ambulance Victoria are always amazing in looking after us when we experience any form of aggression or violence in the workplace.
"They go out of their way to ensure we are trained to try to avoid these types of situations which is unfortunately not always possible to predict or completely avoid. They’re incredibly supportive."
Now, let's hope the simple message Steff and her fellow paramedics are trying to send gets through to those "unfortunate few".
- With additional reporting by Clare Stephens.