Patients with Guns
Recent events force us to focus on worker safety in hospitals, especially as it relates to shootings inside and outside the hospital building. Violence is not limited only to hospital workers, either. What about home health nurses? What
about therapists who go into homes in an effort to keep patients at home rather than in a rehab facility, CPAP technicians and asthma educators who meet people at their residences? Times are hard, the economy is just starting to recover, and now this past week unemployment benefits have been cut by the least productive set of politicians to ever hit Washington, D. C. If it was bad before, will it get worse? Do we need more protection for health care workers?
I know of no companies that send employees into patients' homes that ask whether or not the patient has a gun in the house. Should we know that? What do you think?
I keep weapons in my house. I live in the country, and having a gun in the house is much more normal in my part of rural Missouri than a house without a gun. But here, we know what happens when you pull a trigger. We understand that our gun is for defense, hunting food, and use as a tool for surviving. Some people, likely many, do not understand that because guns can be very easy to acquire, with no training at all. If you were a therapist coming to my house to provide whatever service you do, would you want to know about my guns? Should I have to tell you if I have no intention on using them on you?
As someone who deals with CPAP patients, I enter peoples' homes every day, not knowing what lies beyond the front door. Though I have a had a gun and a knife pulled on me in a hospital and have been in an emergency room that was "shot up" by a person, I have yet to encounter a problem at a patient's home. Though most health care workers are well-received, some meet some resistance from their patients and may not be welcomed at all. Are we putting our employees in undue danger by sending them into hostile patients' homes? Do we need ways to protect them better or should we just continue to ignore recent trends and wait for something to happen?
No one talks about this, though it has to be on most people's minds, especially those responsible for the safety of the employees. Is an annual class from human resources enough to make our employees and colleagues safe? What is the human resources persons qualifications? Do they have expertise in talking someone down who may be violent, or reacting appropriately if things escalate? An HR person with no such training or knowledge is as dumb as sending someone who has never smoked to teach a smoking cessation class.
In my opinion, we have a "perfect storm" brewing that will become an issue we may start hearing about soon. The economy is up, as is joblessness. People pay more each day out of their pockets for health insurance than ever. A bigger divide is growing between the "haves" and the "have-nots" in this country. Some people are getting desperate. Remember the 2002 movie "John Q?" Have we evolved to a place where that scenario, played out by Denzel Washington, is more realistic than we would like to believe? If so, we need a plan. Not just a hospital procedure we pull out when it happens, but a real plan, written and practiced by all those who may be affected, particularly by those in high risk areas, such as emergency rooms. Whether that person is a respiratory therapist in an emergency room, a home health nurse, or someone in a clinic, can you honestly say if it happened at your place of employment you would survive? If not, what are you going to do about it?
What safety assurances do we owe the respiratory therapists or other health care workers going into a patient's home? What due diligence should employers pursue to ensure the safety of our people? Do we give our employees the ability to make decisions about entering a residence based on what they see, hear, or feel? Sadly, some organizations will only make those decisions once something has already happened, rather than formulate a plan before a life is lost, and I think losing one life because of poor planning is one life too many.
That's just my opinion,
Jim Thacker, MBA, MHA, CRT, AE-C