Northwell Health, located in Hyde Park, New York, is using technology to step up the fight against gun violence. There have been a string of violent shootings at hospitals over the last few years, and the health network is trying to protect patients and staff without making it harder for them to do their jobs.
The company is adding a high-tech walk-through detection system that can automatically detect weapons and other potentially dangerous contraband to the entrances at three of its hospitals, including Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, and Lenox Health Greenwich Village in Manhattan.
The system is designed to be seamless for anyone coming into the hospital. Unlike other security systems like metal detectors, the system should help facilities avoid long lines at entrances. It was developed by Evolv Express and lets the security personnel analyze incoming guests in an instant.
“The safety, security and well-being of our patients, visitors and team members are our top priorities,” said Michael Dowling, Northwell’s president and CEO. “To help ensure a safe environment for all who enter our facilities – and as part of Northwell’s broader safety and security efforts – we’re trying this next generation of screening devices.”
The company will start expanding this technology to more of its hospitals in the coming months. Adding a secure screening window may reduce the spread of weapons, but critics say more training and support is needed.
Northwell has also provided more training and resources to staff to improve workplace safety, including active-shooter drills, seminars on conflict de-escalation techniques and courses on how to respond to bleeding emergencies so that team members are better prepared in case of a crisis.
“Northwell is known for its world-class health care and it’s our mission to keep patients safe with world-class security measures,” said Strauss. “The installation of this new detection system is just the latest addition to a wide range of security protocols the health system has in place to protect those in our hospitals, minimize the risk of violence and maintain a safe working environment for our team members. This technology adds just another layer of safety – and improves confidence for everyone who enters these healing spaces.”
The move comes as hospital shootings are becoming more common across the U.S. On June 1, a man started shooting on a hospital campus in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which marked the 233rd mass shooting in the U.S. this year. Also on June 1, a security guard died after being shot by a jail inmate being treated at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. The inmate then fatally shot himself in the hospital’s parking lot. In October 2021, a certified nursing assistant was shot and killed at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
Nurses risk being exposed to all types of violence, not just shootings. Two staff nurses and an emergency department physician were stabbed on June 3 at Encino Hospital Medical Center in California.
Overall, 9 in 10 healthcare workers have seen or experienced violence in the workplace, according to a survey released in May.
Northwell Health is moving in the right direction, but work needs to be done to keep staff safe from gun violence.
Dr. Barksdale, co-founder of the Antifragility Initiative — a holistic, hospital-based violence intervention program for teens at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital — said his perspective comes from the standpoint of victims of gun violence.
“We know that the biggest cause of gun violence in children is a previous episode of being a victim. About 30 percent of our patients who come in shot between the ages of 6 and 15 will return within two years with another gunshot wound injury,” he said.
“So my perspective is from a public health standpoint. I look at the risk factors. I define the problem, which is guns and gun violence. But the risk factors are poverty and despair and hopelessness that we see within our communities, in particular our communities of color. Once you are a victim, you are much more likely to be a victim again or to be a victimizer. So it’s important for us to think holistically about how we break the cycle.”
In addition to training staff and implementing the right security precautions, Barksdale said hospitals should focus on providing informed trauma care.
“What we recognize is violence is the end result often of trauma people have experienced in their life that percolates within them and then is emitted,” Barksdale said. “Not only does someone pick up a gun, but sometimes we in the hospital — due to our lack of empathy and inability to lean into our patients who are victims — don’t provide them with the emotional support. So we may revictimize them. So [patients] leave the hospital with this mentality and they’re still hurt and not healed.”
It isn’t just about changing what happens in the hospital, it’s about making a difference in the community.
“Healed people heal people,” Barksdale said. “We’re focusing on using the event of presenting to the hospital as a victim or gun violence or other violence as a means of promoting the recovery and the post-traumatic growth of people.”