Hospitals are supposed to be havens, safe places where you go to get better. Hospitals are also sacred places where you are treated with dignity until your last dying breath. In the business of treating people, human emotion comes with the territory. Grieving families in the ICU, joyous families in the delivery room, the single face of hope in a diagnostic area, an anxious neighbor patiently waiting for their turn in the OR, the stress of a frantic new nurse in the ER—there is no middle ground for feelings once you walk through the front doors.
If you have ever worked in a health care setting, you know just how hard it has been to watch the news lately with stories of gun violence happening almost everyday. While the thought of an active shooter is always in the back of our minds, no one really knows how they will react regardless of whether they have been prepared. The front line is always ready to treat victims, but the typical education does not provide guidance in the event of a violent incident onsite.
The point of this post is not to incite fear, nor is it to be sensational, because frankly this situation could happen anywhere and anytime. It’s just that the threat in the health care setting is a little more real.
From Advance for Nurses:
“In a 2011 health and safety survey of more than 4,600 nurses, ANA found 11 percent of respondents had been physically assaulted in the previous 12 months, while just more than 50 percent said they had been threatened or verbally abused. Additionally, about 1/3 listed on-the-job assault as one of their top three safety concerns.”
I’m also not claiming to be a hospital security expert; I just want to start a dialogue. If your employer hasn’t provided training—ask. Ask your co-workers what they would do. How would you protect your patients? I say this because I can guarantee that almost everyone around you has thought about it, and talking about it is the only sure way to relieve some type of anxiety around the subject.
My sister and I have spent the majority of our careers working in patient-facing positions and have even lived through these emotions with the patients we have encountered. I distinctly remember sitting on the couch with her to watch the episode of Gray’s Anatomy where the husband of a deceased patient shoots Dr. Shepard while accusing him of “trying to be God.” We both sat there quiet and shaking, the scene concocted felt all too real, even for a TV drama.
That was six years ago or so. At the time, hospitals didn’t really train staff for these situations like they do now. Now, it’s almost mandatory to sit through some type of active shooter video or even participate in a mock shooting scenario (if you get the opportunity to do this, it’s not for the faint of heart). In an informal ask-around to peers across the country in the industry, there are some who have not received training or education on the subject.
I have participated in both the videos and the mock and benefitted from both. It’s not something I really thought about until it was addressed. In fact, I had no idea what to do if it did happen. At the very least, I felt prepared and it was better than not having a clue.
Whether you work in the health care setting or not, take the time to peruse the topic on YouTube. Many law enforcement agencies have teamed up with local hospitals on videos that I found very helpful, like this one: