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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Emergency Physician Survey on Firearm Injury Prevention: Where Can We Improve?


Introduction: Firearm injury and death is increasingly prevalent in the United States. Emergency physicians (EP) may have a unique role in firearm injury prevention.The aim of this study was to describe EPs’ beliefs, attitudes, practices, and barriers to identifying risk of and counseling on firearm injury prevention with patients. A secondary aim was assessment of perceived personal vulnerability to firearm injury while working in the emergency department (ED).

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of a national convenience sample of EPs, using questions adapted from the American College of Surgeons’ Committee on Trauma 2017 survey of surgeons. Descriptive statistics and chi-square tests were calculated as appropriate.

Results: A total of 1901 surveys were completed by EPs from across the United States. Among respondents, 42.9% had a firearm at home, and 56.0% had received firearm safety training. Although 51.4% of physicians in our sample were comfortable discussing firearm access with their high-risk patients, more than 70% agreed or strongly agreed that they wanted training on procedures to follow when they identify that a patient is at high risk of firearm injury. Respondents reported a variety of current practices regarding screening, counseling, and resource use for patients at high risk of firearm injury; the highest awareness and self-reported screening and counseling on firearm safety was with patients with suicidal ideation. Although 92.3% of EPs reported concerns about personal safety associated with firearms in the ED, 48.1% reported that there was either no protocol for dealing with a firearm in the ED, or if there was a protocol, they were not aware of it. Differences in demographics, knowledge, attitudes, and behavior were observed between respondents with a firearm in the home, and those without a firearm in the home.

Conclusions: Among respondents to this national survey of a convenience sample of EPs, approximately 40% had a firearm at home. The majority reported wanting increased education and training to identify and counsel ED patients at high risk for firearm injury. Improved guidance on personal safety regarding firearms in the ED is also needed.

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