After months of hair raising tales from the media, both local and national, the Kansas City Star has shared with its readers data about the workplace violence that suggest allowing guns in hospitals may not have been such a bad idea after all.
One month after Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback let a bill stand that would allow Kansas hospitals to continue their ban of concealed firearms, Star readers learned that health care workers are four times more likely to be subject to serious violence on the job than workers in other industries. This may come as a revelation to those who have followed the debate about Kansas gun laws. In none of the articles the Sentinel reviewed, including a lengthy one in the Washington Post in May 2017, was there any mention of a pre-existing problem.
Patients are responsible for 80 percent of the reported violence. The problem is worse than the numbers suggest as health care workers often fail to report routine violent encounters with patients. The New England Journal of Medicine describes the violence phenomenon, in fact, as “seriously underreported.”
Dave Dillon, a spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association (MHA), told the Star that the problem has always existed but seems to be getting worse. “It’s become a profound issue,” he said, “instead of just an issue.”
The MHA is using federal grant money to train hospital staff on how to deal with violence. Most of the training involves teaching hospital workers how to de-escalate tense situations when patients become aggressive. “If it becomes escalated,” said trainer Keith Payne, “we give [workers] the tangible tools to be able to de-escalate them.”
Payne added, “We do not want them to go hands on unless we have to, but we need the tools in case we do.” By “tools” Payne was apparently referring to the basic martial arts skill that his organization teaches.
In reading recent stories with headlines such as, “Gunman kills doctor, wounds six others in Bronx hospital rampage,” one has to wonder if those will be tools enough.