Op-Ed on Violence Prevention from Steve Lawler, President and Chief Executive Officer, North Carolina Healthcare Association

Gun violence is an epidemic that is shattering lives and communities.  

Mass shootings and other violent acts are happening all-too-often in homes and public settings, including in hospitals and medical offices – our community’s safety nets for help and healing.  

While you might be familiar with the recent rise in violence on commercial aircrafts, you may not know that hospital and medical clinic employees across the country also have been seeing a steady increase in incidents of workplace violence. Yesterday’s mass shooting at a Tulsa medical campus, while incredibly tragic, did not come as a shock to many healthcare professionals.  

The North Carolina Healthcare Association and our 130 member health systems and hospitals are committed to doing more to prevent violent incidents both inside healthcare facilities and in the community. 

To address workplace violence in healthcare settings, we are preparing to gather better data on the frequency and severity of incidents, and to continue educating employees about the importance of reporting. Other strategies that we will continue to discuss and promote include sharing best practices in facility hardening, using technology to keep workplaces safe, and providing healthcare professionals with ongoing educational support and de-escalation techniques.  

We will also continue to work with community partners to address root causes of violence, such as childhood trauma, and will continue shaping a medical culture that integrates behavioral and physical health care. We will also continue to advocate for expanding access to high quality, affordable whole-person care through vehicles like tele-medicine.  

Healthcare professionals across the state will also be using our voices, social media platforms and votes to call for changes such as commonsense, responsible gun violence prevention. We will do this because we have seen enough carnage at hospital campuses, whether from treating countless shooting victims or from caring for coworkers victimized by workplace violence. Enough is enough. It’s time for change. 

We’ve said for several years that there is a behavioral health crisis in our communities and workforce. Clearly, gun violence is at epic levels, too. We must do more to address these ongoing and growing problems. 

This is not a partisan issue. It is a tragedy that could knock on any of our doors. The sad truth for our member health systems and hospitals is that they are at the end of the funnel – dealing with and caring for those who are victims of any kind of violence. We’ve seen enough gun violence both inside and outside of hospital facilities and are joining with others in calling for commonsense action. Time is of the essence. Let’s work together to do better. 

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