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INCREASING DANGERS

The Tulsa shooting is part of an epidemic of violence at US hospitals

A healthcare worker sits at a table after the mass shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 1, 2022.
Reuters/Michael Noble Jr.
A shooting at a hospital in Tulsa on June 1, 2022.
Published

A gunman opened fire at a Tulsa, Oklahoma, hospital complex on Wednesday (June 1), killing four people before shooting himself. The shooting puts Saint Francis Hospital at the intersection of two tragic trends in the US: the relentless run of mass shootings, and rising violence at hospitals.

The shooting in Tulsa was one of two fatal incidents at healthcare facilities on June 1. At Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, a gunman killed a security officer before shooting himself.

Even before these shootings, and before the pandemic, America’s healthcare and social services industries already had the highest rate of workplace violence—including serious injuries and homicides—according to 2018 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The stressors of covid only exacerbated those trends: An April 2022 survey by National Nurses United found a 119% increase in reports of violence from nurses between March 2021 to March 2022.

The hazards of hospital work

A healthcare worker at a hospital is six times more likely to experience violence in the workplace than the average US worker: Between 2011-2018, there was an average of 20 deaths per year in healthcare and social work facilities. Most violence was perpetrated by relatives or domestic partners, though patients, co-workers, and other clients killed 62 people, with another 31 homicides from unknown or uncategorized assailants.

Nurses have been punched in the head, grabbed by the wrist, kicked in the ribs, and beaten to death. According to the American Nurses Association, 1 in 4 nurses is assaulted on the job.

While the motive for the Tulsa shooting remains unknown, police captain Richard Meulenberg told CNN that the gunman, “very purposefully went to this location, went to a very specific floor, and shot with very specific purpose.” He added that this “was not a random shooting.” It was not immediately clear whether the four people killed were staffers, patients, or visitors.

A bill to prevent workplace violence for healthcare and social service workers is currently working its way through Congress, and passed the House in April 2021.

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