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Preparing For An Active Shooter In A Healthcare Setting

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Active shooter incidents throughout the country have prompted individuals and organizations, including hospitals and other healthcare facilities, to consider response plans for an “active shooter”. An “active shooter” is defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area, typically through the use of firearms.”

Nurses should be aware if their workplace has a plan for how to handle an active shooter and they should be prepared to protect themselves and their patients.

A Deadly Problem 

A 2012 Johns Hopkins’ study found that 154 hospital-related shootings occurred from 2000 to 2011, with 91 occurring inside the hospital and 63 outside, on hospital grounds. Although rare, these shootings can be deadly, particularly to the perpetrator, who was the victim in nearly half (45 percent) of cases. Nurses and physicians accounted for 5 percent and 3 percent of victims, respectively.

Most perpetrators (91 percent) were men, and motivations included a grudge, suicide, euthanizing an ill relative, and prisoner escape. Keep in mind, however, that according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, active shooters typically have no pattern or method for selecting their victims. Because of this, shooting events are often unpredictable and difficult to prevent. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps nurses can take to be prepared to react in the event a shooting incident occurs where they work.

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