When Doctors Aren’t Safe at Work

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I walked through the double doors of the Trauma ICU just like any other morning.  But that particular morning, instead of being met by my favorite nurse or a fellow resident, I was met by two men wearing balaclavas and carrying assault rifles.

This was the first time I realized that maybe I wasn’t safe at work.  I was a second year surgical resident.  Chicago was in the middle of yet another gang war.  We were treating patients that had been involved in this urban warfare, and “credible threats” had been made not only against those patients, but also against the hospital.  The men in the balaclavas were part of Chicago PD, and they had our entire trauma unit surrounded – to keep us safe.  And for that, I am greatly appreciative to this very day.

But that is when it hit me, why does the supposedly safest place, a place where healing occurs, need assault rifles to keep it and its workers safe?

This morning I am met with yet another story of a doctor being murdered at work.  My heart goes out to his family, his coworkers, and New Orleans.  As a medical community we are again brought together – not to celebrate a stunning breakthrough in the treatment of a disease, or a patient success story – but to mourn.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the vast majority of workplace assaults occur in a healthcare setting.  In response, hospitals are locking doors.  Installing metal detectors.  Hiring security.  And allowing those guarding its doors to carry guns.  Is this the right answer?  I don’t know.  What I do know, is that regardless of political affiliation, regardless of race or socioeconomic status or religious beliefs, we have to come together and at the very least, return our safest places in America, our havens from the outside world – schools, hospitals, and places of worship, back to safety.

If we can’t do that, then will any of us ever truly be safe again?

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