Gun violence in hospitals: 3 preventive measures

Hospitals and health systems have seen several incidents of gun violence in recent months.

Take a fatal shooting that took place in October at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, for example.

The shooting resulted in the death of Anrae James, a 43-year-old certified nursing assistant. The suspected shooter, 55-year-old nursing assistant Stacey Hayes, allegedly shot and killed Mr. James before wounding two police officers. Mr. Hayes was charged with murder in the death of Mr. James.

Then in January, one person was shot and wounded in the emergency department of NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi in New York City.

Violence in healthcare settings is not new. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows healthcare workers accounted for 73 percent of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses due to violence in 2018. 

However, circumstances related to the pandemic, including increased fatigue and frustration among healthcare workers and patients, have made these settings prone to such incidents, according to authors of an opinion piece published May 16 in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The piece was written by Yash Shah, a medical student at Thomas Jefferson University's Sidney Kimmel Medical College; Robert Glatter, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Northwell Health's Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City; and Joseph Sakran, MD, a survivor of gun violence, a trauma surgeon and vice chair of clinical operations for surgery at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Hospital. 

In the piece, the authors argue more needs to be done to address the issue.

"Laws protecting healthcare institutions from violence, such as those requiring institutional security plans or mandating incident reporting, exist in only 26 states, and many of these laws are limited to particular departments or staff. Additionally, there are no federal requirements that require hospitals to implement prevention plans," they wrote.

The authors suggested three steps be taken:

  • Financially incentivize and install facility upgrades, such as metal detectors and panic buttons that boost security, without deterring patients from coming to hospitals. 
  • Require medical record warnings that document the history of disruptive patients, family members and healthcare workers.
  • Focus on prevention by "studying statistics surrounding the risk factors that contribute to gun violence, harnessing empiric approaches for tracking and addressing improvement, and communicating with the public."

To read the full piece, click here

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