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Dome - Responding to the shootings

March 2011

Responding to the shootings

Date: March 4, 2011


Security officer

The tragic shootings that occurred last fall when a patient’s son wounded a physician, then killed himself and his mother, stimulated national conversations about hospital safety. Since then, Hopkins administrators have identified additional ways to help hospital staff anticipate violent behavior from patients and visitors as well as methods for de-escalating it.

Although the hospital has long maintained round-the-clock security as well as policies to restrict abusive or threatening behavior, a new group of mediators will enhance efforts to protect patients and staff, according to Harry Koffenberger, vice president of corporate security. He emphasized that while mediators can assist with certain confrontations between providers and patients, hospital security officers will continue to respond immediately to any situation that is physically threatening.

Another initiative calls for staff to use the hospital’s electronic record system to “flag” patients or family members who act aggressively or violently. If those patients return to the hospital for treatment, the computer record will alert staff to their potential behavior problems.

Koffenberger outlined these strategies last month at a town meeting about institutional responses to the shootings. At the event, Gabe Kelen, director of the Department of Emergency Medicine, spoke about trends of violence in health care facilities. Although health care workers are more likely to experience verbal abuse and physical assault than workers in many other fields, Kelen said the risk of being shot by patients or family members is miniscule.

Jeff Natterman, the hospital’s associate director of risk management, reported that regulatory agencies investigating the incident found no deficiencies in Hopkins’ security procedures or standards of patient care.

Howie Gwon, who directs emergency management, said the institution’s emergency cell phone alert system, which employees must sign up for, will provide more frequent updates during any future crisis. So will the hospital-wide plasma screens. In addition, the hospital’s announcement speaker system has been reinstated to broadcast emergency codes.

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