Working With Medical Personnel in the Aftermath of a Mass Shooting: Lessons Learned From Nickel Mines

Working With Medical Personnel in the Aftermath of a Mass Shooting: Lessons Learned From Nickel Mines

Ashley T. Winch, Kathryn Sunderman, Deborah C. Beidel
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8813-0.ch014
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The rising number of mass casualty incidents in the United States has exposed hospital personnel to more traumatic events on the job than ever before, with research citing a lack of mental health support following such events. It is often assumed that the advanced training of medical professionals serves as a protective factor against PTSD and other mental health disorders resulting from occupational trauma. However, this notion is false, and if left untreated, these mental health issues may extend beyond personal distress and negatively impact patient care. Furthermore, not all hospital personnel who are directly exposed to mass casualty incidents have advanced medical training, and many of these individuals have had no experience with these types of traumas. This chapter outlines planning and implementation measures that hospitals can take prior to a mass casualty incident occurring, followed by steps, strategies, and supports that can be deployed once a hospital has become a treating facility for victims of a mass casualty incident.
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The public tends to assume that individuals who are in the medical field, because of their medical training, are more resilient to traumatic events and the resultant medical casualties, such as the often horrific nature of gunshot wounds, than the general population. Certainly, clinical training emphasizes the need to be objective, and perhaps even detached, when engaged in clinical care. This assumption, however, is not absolute. For example, Dr. Albert Wu, a professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health notes that “it’s not a matter of if clinicians are going to experience trauma while providing care, but when and how often” (Paturel, 2019).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Peer-Support: Peers formally trained to provide support around mental health needs to those of equal employment status following exposure to a traumatic event.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A mental health disorder that can result from exposure, or repeated exposures to traumatic events.

Hospital Personnel: Any staff member of a hospital that is treating victims of an MCI.

Crisis Response Plan (CRP): A behavioral intervention plan that is personalized to the individual to be used when they are experiencing a crisis.

Mass Casualty Incident: An event where the number and severity of injured victims exceeds the resources available to treat the victims.

Traumatic Event: An event in which someone is exposed to death, injury, sexual violence, or the threat of any of these. The event can either be through direct exposure, such as witnessing the event, or it can be through learning of such an event happening to someone the person is close to.

Debriefing: An organized meeting that takes place 24-72 hours after a traumatic event in which trained peers facilitate education about stress reactions and facilitate discussions about the event.

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