Hospitals Training Staffs to Survive Increased Shootings

Written by Tara Culp-Ressler

Over the past several years, mass shootings have intensified instead of abating. Mass shootings are typically defined as random gun-related incidents that take place in a public place. But there’s another space that’s emerging as a battleground for these types of tragedies: hospitals.

According to a Johns Hopkins study published last year, there were 91 shootings inside U.S. hospitals between 2000 and 2011, typically in emergency departments. Another 63 shootings took place outside on hospital grounds. In response, hospitals are working to prepare their staff for potential gun violence at the workplace — essentially, training them about how to survive a shooting and how to best disarm a shooter.

“It used to be hospitals were kinds of ‘hands off.’ Those kinds of things didn’t happen,” Caryn Thornburg, an emergency preparedness expert who is currently working with the California Hospital Association to conduct those kind of trainings, said in reference to hospital shootings. But that’s not the case anymore. Thornbug believes the economic downturn, drug and alcohol abuse, and the rise of concealed carry laws have all contributed to a the current environment in which hospitals have become targets.

According to the Johns Hopkins study, the rate of assaults on hospital employees is 8 in 10,000, compared with 2 in 10,000 for other employees in the private sector. And that doesn’t include patients. Just this week, a patient waiting to receive treatment in a Pennsylvania hospital was struck by a stray bullet.

That’s why Thornburg has designed a class specifically geared toward healthcare workers in the Golden State. The California Hospital Association has held about 17 different eight-hour sessions to give staff members — including doctors, nurses, hospital chief executives and receptionists — an opportunity to receive training in preparation for gun violence.

Cheri Hummel, the vice president of disaster preparedness for the California Hospital Association, points out that most workplace shootings are over by the time law enforcement is even able to get there. That’s where hospital staff come in. “Everyone should know and understand how to handle this kind of an event,” Hummel told the Los Angeles Times, explaining that hospitals have the unique challenge of safeguarding patients who may not be able to be moved. “You can’t just evacuate an entire hospital. Even sheltering in place and putting everyone on lockdown are challenges,” Hummel added.

Hummel estimates that about 600 of California’s hospital employees have attended a training so far, but the demand is growing. Lower-level employees are noticing that hospital CEOs will take eight hours out of their day to focus on gun violence prevention courses, and that sends the signal that it’s an important priority.

Even outside of mass shootings that threaten medical professionals’ lives, hospitals are certainly impacted by the rising tide of gun violence. Hospital staff treat increasing numbers of patients with gunshot wounds, which racks up an estimated $5.6 million in medical bills each year. In some areas that have especially high rates of gun violence, like Chicago, hospitals are desperately seeking more blood donations because their supplies aren’t sufficient to treat everyone who gets shot.

This post was originally published at ThinkProgress.

Photo from Thinkstock


Eternal Gardener
Eternal G5 years ago

There we go again, treating the symptoms instead of the cause... what a SAD situation :(

pam w.
pam w5 years ago

If the NRA has it's will, everyone will be wearing holsters and shooting anyone we dislike! Schools and hospitals today...what's next?

Jude Hand
Judith Hand5 years ago

Interesting, the comment that hospitals used to be an area where you wouldn't even think that something like a random shooting would occur; that's true. Years ago, I worked with a few survivors of gunshot wounds caused by others or themselves. It was in a traumatic brain injury program and my job was to set up/fund costs of hospitalization and rehabilitation. How horrid to think of a shooting going on in a place where folks with this history would have to re-live it. Yikes!

Dale O.

Quite shocking to read about this, quite unbelievable that this sort of thing is happening.
Ran out of green stars for Ron B, sending a gun free star instead!
(Note, the star is Alive and breathing! I won't send it near an ER.)

John c, that really does sound like the NRA.

What exactly is in the water that you have been drinking, Nikolas K? If I visit Australia, I will be sure to avoid it.

So very true, Linda M. Wait for it ...'WW' hasn't dropped in yet, I am in shock as it has the word 'shooting' in it and is about...guns.

Geoff P.
Past Member 5 years ago


Sharon R.
Sharon R5 years ago

I have to wonder what's making people so crazy? If it's drugs, why are they having this effect now? What is causing people to lash out so at others, especially those closest to them (ie domestic violence) and those trying to help them (ie hospitals and other emergency services)? Might this be connected to changing sicknesses like Avian Flu and Swine Flu that are spreading in new ways and/or having more radical effects...?

Gloria picchetti
Gloria p5 years ago

As a Chicagoan I think gun shot wounds are primary in training agenda.

Deborah W.
Deborah W5 years ago

Bandaide measures, undeniably needed because the core problems are never addressed. Sad for everyone.

Hope this applies to CHICAGO as the new rage along LAKE SHORE DRIVE as large groups (cute name: flash mobs) are currently attempting to shove tourists/hikers/bikers/joggers into the lake.

Where is Rahm, police presence, media? Not good for tourism gets my vote!

QUESTION: After the photo-ops and outrage expressed by Michelle and Barack regarding Hadiya Pendleton (teen shot and killed in their Kenwood neighborhood shortly after the inaugural) anything further going on or has she been replaced by Zimmerman?

Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K5 years ago

Crime is allowed on the streets of America because the police and other government agencies profit from it so to eradicate crime is to eradicate extra income for the greedy just like medical malpractice is never addresses as it would mean the imprisonment of the CEO's running big Pharmaceutical companies who need a constant supply of sick people to shore up their mega profits. Wake up to the real truth my brothers and sisters and turn of the TV its brainwashing you all.

Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K5 years ago

Mass shootings are a result of the media and others who have an agenda to disarm America so as to introduce the enslavement of humanity. so by telling us the hospitals are being trained for more mass shooting they are also saying that they intend to up the anti till they get what they want and this is all guns in private ownership so the enemy (government working for banksters ) are the only ones with guns to enforce the NWO.