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Trauma surgeon who responded to 1 October massacre co-authors best practices for mass shootings

A temporary memorial is on the ground with gifts, flowers and balloons surrounding it. The memorial is a long white banner with handwritten notes all over, a heart and block letters that read “#VegasStrong.”
Courtesy of Clark County
A temporary memorial near the Welcome to Las Vegas sign in November 2017.

There are new recommendations for hospitals to help them be better prepared to respond to mass shootings after a study looked at Las Vegas’ response to the 1 October massacre.

Health care professionals who were involved in six of the largest mass shootings in America came together last fall to discuss their experiences and lessons learned. Their recommended best practices, published in July, address things like optimizing medical records and communication between first responders and hospitals specifically for mass shootings.

A map of the United States is titled “Mass Shootings in America.” It pinpoints Las Vegas, El Paso and Sutherland Springs, Texas, Orlando and Parkland, Florida, and Dayton, Ohio as cities where mass shootings that were part of the study occurred.
Courtesy of the American College of Surgeons

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Mass Shootings in America: Expert Recommendations for Healthcare Response

Experienced clinicians release recommendations for an optimal healthcare response to mass shootings.

Mass shooting sites researched include:

  • Las Vegas, Nevada (2017)
  • El Paso, Texas (2019)
  • Sutherland Springs, Texas (2017)
  • Dayton, Ohio (2019)
  • Orlando, Florida (2016)
  • Parkland, Florida (2018)

Recommended areas for an optimal response:

  • Readiness training
  • Public education
  • Triage
  • Communication
  • Patient tracking
  • Medical records
  • Family reunification
  • Mental health services

The following attribution is included: “Mass Shootings in America – Consensus Recommendations for Healthcare Response. Journal of the American College of Surgeons. DOI: 10.1097/XCS.0000000000000312.”

Logos for the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS) are included.

Dr. Deborah Kuhls is a University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor of surgery who co-authored the study’s findings. She was also one of the trauma surgeons on shift when the calls started coming in on October 1, 2017. Kuhls said it’s important to differentiate between a hospital’s response to a mass casualty disaster and a mass shooting.

“Let’s say if we get an earthquake, we might have other types of injuries that require other types of treatment,” she said. “But in the case of mass shootings, we know that the need for operations and blood is going to be higher.”

Another best practice is for medical systems to host realistic readiness training, where hundreds of patients show up and health care providers exercise who to treat first. Kuhls also gave input on streamlining patient tracking and family reunification, which she said came from first-hand experience almost five years ago.

“Almost every hospital in Southern Nevada received some patients from our shooting,” Kuhls explained. “It was really challenging in our case because it was a concert venue, and we had no idea who they were. We didn’t have a cell phone that we could even look for contacts, so family reunification was really challenging.”

Finally, realizing the emotional toll responding to a mass shooting can have on health caregivers, the cohort also recommends tailored mental health services for responding professionals.

Lucretia Cunningham is a former contributing reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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