Safety on the Gun Range/Safety in Health Care

Miriam Marcus-Smith, RN, MHA
Washington Patient Safety Coalition Director

I will say right off that I am not a proponent of carrying a firearm. However, I recently was at a shooting range and observed some things that struck me as very applicable to safety. The group next to us was comprised of a mom, dad, and two girls (ages 10 and 11). The parents were thoroughly and carefully instructing the girls on proper handling of their size-appropriate rifles and all safety equipment (eye and ear protection). They made sure the girls obeyed all safety rules and guidelines and practiced them over and over. They never took their eyes off the girls and stepped in when necessary to correct or guide them.

Lesson: if you really believe in the cause (gun use and gun safety), start them young! Don’t wait until they are old enough to go out and get their own weapons to start learning safe handling and use.

If you believe in patient safety, start them young also, early in their professional education! Don’t wait until they are out there in the field to teach them the basics of safety and quality improvement. Start in nursing, pharmacy, medical school, or before. Teach them how dangerous their weapons are: at the gun range the weapons are literally that. In the health care setting, our weapons are our knowledge, decisions, and procedures. We must teach our providers that these are potentially life-threatening weapons and must be treated with utmost respect.