A couple of weeks ago the GVMH management team took place in an exercise to evaluate our response to an active shooter being in our facility. The exercise was led by Mitigation Dynamics which is composed of former law enforcement and military personnel who provide training on how to respond to terrible situations. The exercise was a simulation but as a participant I can tell you it was nerve-wracking and thought-provoking. We learned a lot and we are better prepared and I pray that we’ll never, ever have to use our training.
Hospitals have traditionally been thought of as safe havens, so have schools and churches but recent national events suggest that no place is truly safe from violence or harm. As health care workers our primary mission is to heal and protect and preparing for the realities of the world tends to go against everything we know.
Unfortunately violence does happen in hospitals and there are several reasons why. We deal with life and death situations, emotions run high and in high emotion situations people don’t always act rationally. The other thing at play with hospitals is the doors are always open. We invite people in 24 hours a day 7 days a week, without question and without judgement.
I want to share a few of my takeaways from the training session. The nature of services provided by hospitals involves risk and we will never be able to eliminate the risk completely but it is important that we mitigate it. Doing so may require security measures more intrusive that one might expect in their home or in other work places.
The balancing act comes from identifying security measures that are respectful of employee, patient, community and organizational values. Security measures are not only a matter of crime prevention and law enforcement but they are an ethical responsibility. We must protect those we serve, and in many cases those we serve are unable to protect themselves.
There must be ongoing training and open communication about security measures that are in place and there must be an emphasis on refining and improving security measures. Our recent drill is just one example of our commitment to improving security measures and response. Whatever security measures are put in place should not impede the provision of care and that’s a delicate and difficult balance to achieve. Conflict will occur and it’s incumbent upon us to respond appropriately and reduce the potential for harm and to do so in a manner that fits within our ethics as an organization and meets the expectation of the community we serve.
Hospitals like GVMH pose a unique security challenge. We must be accessible 24 hours a day which makes us vulnerable. Understanding our vulnerability is the first step in mitigating our risk.