“Health care professionals and systems have an essential role in comprehensive strategies to reduce violence and suicide and corresponding inequities in communities. However, medical school curricula do not consistently incorporate firearm safety, violence prevention, or social determinants of health in training. Many clinicians are not comfortable asking patients about firearm injury risk factors2 and are not trained in trauma-informed care. At the health system level, financial incentives prioritize rapid visits and higher volume that leave less time for patient counseling and prevention; yet the financial costs to systems from caring for individuals who experience firearm-related trauma is substantial.
Many clinicians may not have the experience or be aware of the opportunities to prevent firearm-related morbidity and mortality. For example, in a survey of 1015 family physicians, 46% reported no training in firearm safety counseling and 68% did not feel knowledgeable discussing safe storage devices for firearms. Family physicians who had received formal training about firearm safety counseling were more likely to report a higher level of comfort with asking patients about firearm ownership.3 Physicians and other health care professionals can enhance the safety of their patients, improve data to inform community efforts, and support system changes to prevent violence and reduce inequities. Examples include pediatricians asking parents about safe storage of firearms at home, emergency physicians and surgeons engaging in hospital-based violence intervention programs and referring injured patients to wraparound services (such as counseling and job training), and behavioral health practitioners assessing suicidality and counseling about access to lethal means. Clinicians also can work with health departments and community partners to share their medical and health care–related expertise in regard to policies and programs that increase economic and household stability and enhance access to care, services, and support (e.g., tax credits, housing policies, mentoring, and after-school programs).4“
More on Firearm Homicide and Suicide During the COVID-19 Pandemic Implications for Clinicians and Health Care Systems via JAMA.