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Can You Safely Handle a Gun? Emergency Provider Survey Results

March 3, 2020

Written by Clay Smith

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Emergency providers regularly encounter guns in the ED, but over half did not feel comfortable handling a gun. It might be a good idea to learn the basics of firearm safety.

Why does this matter?
Interestingly, “20% of U.S. emergency departments have firearms or knives brought in on a daily or weekly basis.” This has already happened to many of us, including me. Whatever your feeling about guns, knowing how to safely handle one is important. An accidental firearm discharge may be deadly. Can you safely handle a gun when this happens to you?

Check your guns at the door
This was a national survey of 2,192 emergency providers in the U.S., with a 49% response rate. About two-thirds were physicians; one-third were NPs/PAs. The northeast region of the U.S. was underrepresented in the response. Key findings were that 59% had encountered firearms in the ED at least once a year. Yet, 54% did not feel comfortable handling a firearm if it were found in a patient’s possession. About 33-42% had been formally trained in firearm handling. This is a hot button issue. You may hate guns, but it is probably going to happen to you that an altered patient comes in and has a gun in his pocket. Having a basic understanding of how to safely hold, handle, and disarm a gun is important to protect yourself and your staff.

Emergency Providers’ Familiarity with Firearms: A National Survey. Acad Emerg Med. 2020 Jan 20. doi: 10.1111/acem.13849. [Epub ahead of print]

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