Editorial update: This article was written and published in our member magazine prior to the death of Liza Fletcher and the mass shooting that took place in Memphis this week. Our deepest condolences go out to those who have been affected by those tragedies, and to our entire community.

Let me begin with this disclaimer: this is not intended to open a political debate about guns, although that debate certainly informs the conversation we need to have. 

No matter your political stance, I think we can ALL agree on this: Every patient, caregiver, vendor, and medical provider that enters a healthcare facility in our community should feel SAFE. 

Assuming you agree with that, and assuming you are a leader in the healthcare community, let us also agree on this: we need to have a community conversation (and subsequent actions) about how we improve safety in healthcare. We need to establish minimum standards for what our employees, members, patients, friends and all can expect when they walk through the doors of our world-class care organizations in this city. 

Yes, we need more active shooter trainings and crisis management education. But we need something deeper. You have likely read about the hospital shooting in Tulsa where we lost two doctors, a receptionist and mother of two boys, and a devoted husband and veteran. Upon hearing that, I sought information from some of the leaders of our healthcare community about their feelings of safety in Greater Memphis. What I learned shocked me. 

In one story, an ER employee told me that a wounded patient arose from a gurney and attacked a nurse and two physicians. There was a security officer on duty who stated they could not intervene in a physical way. The result was the two physicians taking the patient down to the ground to restrain the individual and await law enforcement arrival. 

In a second story, a female hospital employee told me that she always carries a concealed weapon on her. Think about that for a second: you’re a healthcare provider, and you don’t feel safe doing your job. So much so that you bring a weapon with you to work. 

And, finally, I was told one more story from a suburban private practice administrator who stated that a patient’s family member waited until the end of the day when security was looser to get through several locked doors in order to make a threat on the administrator’s life. 

What shocked me the most about these stories was the normalcy that was conveyed by the storytellers and the diversity in victims and their locations throughout the metro area. 

There are more stories out there that are even more shocking, and likely one of these conjured up a personal story from you. That is just plain sad. 

I know, I know: the crazy people will always find a way to be crazy. And there is no need to remind me of the metro area that we live in and its crime problems. I don’t know about you, but as someone who cares about my community and is in a position to improve safety, I feel an obligation to assess and strive for meaningful improvement in the safety of our healthcare community. 

We have local organizations that represent physicians, nurses, and administrators from all healthcare entities. It is time to band together and improve this issue before Memphis is the next city in the headlines. 

Finally, let’s agree on one last thing: healthcare is notoriously slow to adapt, innovate, and collaborate across competitive lines. Let this be one issue that serves as the exception to that rule. 

I welcome your comments and suggestions at ccummins@mdmemphis.org