Following the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, more healthcare providers are calling for tangible solutions to what they believe has become a public health crisis.
One day after a former student opened fire at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 people, American Medical Association President David O. Barbe, MD, MHA, urged action addressing gun violence. “The pervasiveness of gun violence and the weapons used in these crimes have changed the way we live,” Barbe wrote in the Feb. 15 post on the AMA website. “In movie theaters, places of worship, offices, restaurants, night clubs and schools, people today make clear note of escape routes. Schools, including the one attacked yesterday, regularly practice for active shooter situations.”
Barbe pointed out the effects of pervasive gun violence in the U.S. is not just affecting the general public, but the healthcare community as well.
“In emergency departments and trauma centers, we struggle with much more complicated, dangerous injuries inflicted by lethal ammunition fired by military-grade weapons,” he wrote.
“At the 2016 AMA Annual Meeting, which began the day after the deadly shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, physicians from across the country and at every stage in their career spoke about treating gunshot victims and the scale of violence we are experiencing today,” Barbe said. “Their stories resonate as much today as they did nearly two years ago.”
The American Nurses Association in 2015, following mass shootings in Lafayette, La.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Charleston, S.C., called on policymakers to ban assault weapons and enact other effective gun control reforms to protect the public and restore access to mental health services for individuals and families.
One policy healthcare professionals have sought to change in the wake of recent shootings is the Dickey Amendment, a more than a decade-old amendment sponsored by Jay Dickey, an Arkansas congressman, according to a Feb. 15 article in The Atlantic. In 1996, Congress made the amendment to a spending bill, which forbade the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using money to “advocate or promote” gun control, according to the article.
More than 100 medical organizations asked Congress in 2016 to lift the Dickey Amendment, which makes researching and collecting data on gun violence more difficult, the article said.
“We in public health count dead people. It’s one of the things we do. And we count them in order to understand how to prevent preventable deaths,” Nancy Krieger, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told NPR in 2015, according to the The Atlantic article.
At least 65% of healthcare providers who responded to a Medscape Medical News poll view gun violence as a public health threat, according to a Dec. 28, 2017, Medscape.com article.
After the Nov. 5, 2017, church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Jennifer Mensik, PhD, RN, FAAN, wrote in a Nov. 7, 2017, Nurse.com post that nurses have a responsibility to advocate for improved policy regarding gun violence under the ANA Code of Ethics. “Every time we do not act, we strengthen the conviction of the person who is currently planning the next mass shooting,” Mensik wrote.
“Based on this country’s recent history, we know there’s a good chance that someone may be planning the next mass shooting right now. This person knows, based on recent similar heinous acts, that we — nurses, legislators and the general public — haven’t figured out how to prevent this from happening.”
Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 first graders and six adults dead, there have been 400 school shootings, according to The New York Times.
“Some of us are too afraid to alienate family, friends, loved ones or colleagues by having an evidence-informed conversation, which can go a long way to figuring out how to prevent or predict this type of violent behavior,” Mensik wrote in her post. “While we may not be able to stop the next one, by continuing these conversations we can slow this down, ultimately stopping most of them.”
Courses related to ‘gun violence’
WEB360: Active Shooter Training for Healthcare Professionals: What You Need to Know (1 contact hr)
This webinar will discuss survival steps attendees can take in the event of an active shooter event occurring at the workplace. The topics covered will include: developing a mindset of action and survival during active shooter incidents, preparing for critical incidents in the workplace, actions to take in active shooter situations, law enforcement response to critical incidents and steps to take when confronted by first responders, emergency action plans in healthcare facilities, and characteristics of active shooter situations.
CE192-60: Forensic Nursing and School Shooters
(1.5 contact hrs)
Many forensic nurses focus on interpersonal violence. At one time, schools — a workplace for students, teachers and nurses — were considered safe. The reality is that violence on school grounds and inside school buildings is continuing in the aftermath of several high-profile cases of shooting homicides in these settings. Nurses working in the school, community, and emergency and psychiatric mental health settings can play a key role in the prevention of violence by understanding the dynamics and profiles behind these types of homicides.
CE117-60: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Part 1 — An Overview
(1 contact hr)
Post-traumatic stress disorder was once associated mainly with the survivors of wars, but today it is used to describe symptoms seen in a wide range of trauma survivors. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD indicates that at some point in their lives, 7% to 8% of the U.S. population will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, although more than half will experience a trauma. This educational activity will address causes, symptoms, and management of this disorder.
CE710: Knife and Gun Injuries
(1 contact hr)
Penetrating trauma involves wounding instruments that penetrate the skin and directly injure body tissue. Although there are numerous examples of penetrating trauma — such as a child falling on a pencil that penetrates the globe of the eye or a piece of shrapnel from an explosive device tearing through a limb — two obvious causes of penetrating trauma are firearm wounds and stabbings. This module discusses the mechanism of injury involved in firearm injuries and stab wounds. The healthcare providers should have a baseline understanding of the mechanisms of injury surrounding this form of trauma.