If you want security, don’t aim a gun at your staff

Folks, I’m almost at a loss for words here, so I’ll just shoot.  Read, with astonishment, this item below from the Las Vegas Sun:

An off-duty cop pretending to be a terrorist stormed into a hospital intensive care unit brandishing a handgun [last week], which he pointed at nurses while herding them down a corridor and into a room.

There, after harrowing moments, he explained that the whole caper was a training exercise. (Ed.: Emphasis mine)

Apparently, the hospital intended this to be a terrorism-preparedness exercise. But it didn’t go over well, to say the least. The staff at Los Vegas-based St. Rose Dominican Hospitals-Siena Campus, as the Sun reporter wryly puts it, ” found the exercise more traumatizing than instructive.”

If there’s a more half-assed way to respond to potential threats, I can’t imagine what it is. Not only does it scare the bejeezus out of the staff, it could easily distracted them from getting back to their real jobs, i.e. keeping people alive. Do patients in an ICU really deserve to be treated by terrified caregivers who have just been jolted out of their wits? Good Lord!

Please understand, I’m not here to trivialize concerns about hospital violence. It’s clearly a serious issue, especially in the hospital’s 24-hour, open access ED.

A 2009 study by the Emergency Nurses Association found that more than half of nurses reported experiencing physical violence on the job, and that one in four had experienced such violence more than 20 times in the previous three years.

Another study, published by the American College of Emergency Physicians’ Annals of Emergency Medicine in 2005, found that nearly three-quarters of 171 Michigan physicians surveyed experienced a verbal threat in the last year, and 28 percent were victims of physical assault in the same time period.

This statistics are terrifying, truly, and must be addressed if hospitals want to do their business well. But I think most professionals would agree that fake terrorism isn’t a strategy.

So what of the Los Vegas hospital?  Why did it conduct what, in retrospect, was clearly a mindbogglingly stupid experiment?  My guess is that hospital administrators thought this would be cheaper than paying for real training . (Maybe someone at  Blackwater owed them a favor?) Or that maybe they were so ignorant that they thought highly-trained professionals in a tense situation were asleep at the wheel.

Regardless, this kind of thoughtless tomfoolery can only distract professionals from noticing real threats.  If someone ever does show up with a gun, whose fault will it be if they think it’s an exercise?

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

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