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Winter 2011

Safety Zones?

By: Sue De Pasquale
Date: February 18, 2011

Sue Depaquale
Sue Depasquale

Many of us here at Hopkins Medicine felt our world shake last September 16, in the aftermath of a well-publicized episode of violence within the Hospital. Paul Warren Pardus shot and killed his elderly mother and himself—but not before first shooting and wounding the Hopkins doctor who had been caring for the elderly woman.

While, sadly, we’ve all become familiar with press reports of violence in many settings—in airports, on city streets, even in schools—the idea of blood being shed within a hospital, a place long known as a sanctuary of healing, was jarring.

Here at the magazine, the shooting got us to wondering: Just how common are such events in hospitals across the country? Is the safety we typically ascribe to hospitals misplaced?

The answers we found, presented here in Linell Smith’s cover story, may give you pause. For while fatal shootings are relatively rare, the overall environment for health care workers is not as safe as you might think. The situation is serious enough that the Joint Commission, in 2009, issued a “sentinel event alert”—advising hospitals and other health care facilities to better protect their staffs and improve the general “culture of safety.”

Our hope is that articles like “Cautionary Tales” will help inform—and advance—the national conversation about this important issue.