Research In Action

Research In Action

firearm safety
Educating on Firearm Safety in the Emergency Department
February 19, 2019

My colleague in CHOP’s Emergency Department, Sofia Chaudhary, MD and I have been leading the development of a program that would enable CHOP ED staff to educate patient families on firearm safety. A number of interested and passionate physicians and social workers have joined us in this effort.  Sofia and I were recently interviewed for a blog post on why there is a need for this type of education, the qualitative research our team has conducted, and our plans for a universal pilot program to distribute free or low-cost firearm lock devices to patient families.

An abbreviated version of the blog post is included below. Click here to read the full blog on the CHOP Research Institute’s Cornerstone blog.

Pediatric emergency department physicians work at a fast pace to problem solve and provide the right treatment at the right time. Embracing this sense of urgency, physician-researchers with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) are studying if the ED could be an ideal atmosphere for clinicians to educate patients and families about the risk of firearms, both for unintentional injury and for suicide.

Guns are the second leading cause of injury-related deaths for children ages 1 to 17 in the U.S. Suicide is the second leading cause of adolescent death, and most cases involve a family member’s unlocked gun. Parents often are unaware of their adolescents’ suicidal thoughts, according to a recent study.

Looking for a way to stop these trends from spiraling, the VPI team is exploring the feasibility of launching a pilot program to empower families to keep their children safe. The firearm safety promotion would be universal in nature, involving clinicians who would initiate nonjudgmental conversations with families in the ED about firearm ownership, gun storage practices, and safety tips, and then send them home with free or low-cost firearm lock devices and educational materials. 

“We’re essentially providing the reasoning for why it’s important to use gun lock devices — a rationale and method to protect children, from toddlers to teenagers, who may unintentionally or intentionally find a firearm that the caregivers have no intention of them using,” said Sofia Chaudhary, MD, a CHOP Emergency Medicine Fellow, who has seen firsthand the devastating impact on youth who have been victims of firearm injuries. “If there is anything I can do to help educate the community on the risks of having firearms in their homes and ways to mitigate those risks, I’m motivated to do that.”