Emergency Physicians’ Familiarity with the Safe Handling of Firearms
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Emergency Physicians’ Familiarity with the Safe Handling of Firearms


Introduction: Emergency physicians (EP) experience high rates of workplace violence, the risks of which increase with the presence of weapons. Up to 25% of trauma patients brought to the emergency department (ED) have been found to carry weapons. Given these risks, we conducted an educational needs assessment to characterize EPs’ knowledge of firearms, frequency of encountering firearms in the ED, and level of confidence with safely removing firearms from patient care settings.

Methods: This was a survey study of attending and resident EPs at two academic and four community hospitals in the Midwest and Northeast. A 26-item questionnaire was emailed to all EPs at the six institutions. Questions pertained to EPs’ knowledge of firearms, experience with handling firearms, and exposure to firearms while at work. We calculated response proportions and p-values.

Results: Of 243 recipients who received the survey, 149 (61.3%) completed it. Thirty-three respondents (22.0%) reported encountering firearms in the workplace, 91 (60.7%) reported never handling firearms, and 25 (16.7%) reported handling firearms at least once per year. Thirty-six respondents (24.0%) reported formal firearms training, and 63 (42.3%) reported no firearms training. There were no significant regional differences regarding firearms training or exposure. Residents from the Northeast were more likely to be moderately confident that they could safely handle a firearm prior to law enforcement involvement (p=0.043), while residents from the Midwest were more likely to be not at all confident (p=0.018).

Conclusion: The majority of surveyed attending and resident EPs reported little experience with handling firearms. Among resident EPs, there was a regional difference in confidence in handling firearms prior to law enforcement involvement. Given the realities of workplace violence and the frequency with which firearms are encountered in the ED, further investigation is needed to evaluate provider competence in safely handling them. EPs may benefit from training on this topic.

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