Stranger (Danger) in Plain Sight

Last night, in the news, they reported about a man entering Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and asking for a doctor by name.  The story then continues that the stranger shot the doctor twice and then killed himself.  The police arrived “in seconds”…  But, to no avail.  Unfortunately, it was reported this morning that the doctor did not survive his wounds despite the hospital’s best efforts to save him.

What the news has not reported is what happened between when the stranger asked for the doctor by name and the deadly encounter.  I believe these details are VERY important.  They are so important, that I just had a pow-wow with my staff about it.

How did he find the doctor?

Who did the stranger ask (about where he could find the doctor)?  What did that person (presumably hospital staff) say or do?  Did the staff say something like, “Oh… you can find him in Room XX down that hall right there?”  Did the staff ask for his name?  Did the staff then call the doctor before sending the stranger his way?  Was the doctor paged?  Or did the staff just send this stranger on his way without any effort to identify him or his purpose?

If he didn’t have an appointment or was not known to the staff, why did was he directed to meet with the doctor?  Heck, my front desk screens my phone calls THOROUGHLY before they are passed through to me.

The report said, “the doctor was shot in a foyer between the waiting area and the examining area.”   So, did the staff just recklessly say to the stranger, “Oh… yeah… Dr. Davidson is that guy with the dark hair over there?” 

Is this normal?  Or is something amiss?

How was the perpetrator acting when he asked for the doctor by name?  What was his demeanor?  Body language?  This is about Situational Awareness.

How did the perpetrator get to Dr. Davidson, EXACTLY?  Again…. I think this is critical information, if we are interested in preventing or mitigating such incidents.  Mind you, I’m not suggesting there is any foolproof way to stop crazy people from doing crazy things.  But, there ARE SIGNS.  There are “pre-incident indicators” (aka PINs).  Oftentimes in disaster situations, people present think it’s “fireworks” or “part of the show.”  They have suppressed their survival instincts.

More laws?

Forbes reported that the perpetrator’s 78 year old mother died two months ago, and that Dr. Davidson had treated her.  Presumably, the perp was upset about some perceived issue with the doctor’s treatment.  The Forbes article goes on to debate points ranging from installing metal detectors in hospitals (very impractical and ineffective) to more “gun control” laws (yeah… because more laws will stop crazy people, right?).  The article also mentions training hospital staff how to survive an active shooter scenario by running, fighting, or hiding.  What they don’t mention is situational awareness.  Again… there is some “science” to this, including “PINs.”  Many people become victims because their situational awareness was absent, so they didn’t run, hide, or fight.  They weren’t aware of any reason to do so.  Remember this:  Speed is life.  ACTION is life.

What would your staff do?

My point is that Situational Awareness applies to everyone in all situations.  Are you situationally aware?  What about your staff?  What would they do if a stranger came in asking for you by name?  What would they do if a known patient came in very agitated asking for you?  Or it could be someone looking for one of your staff by name.  Do you have any procedures or plans in place for these possibilities?  Yes, the probability of such a situation is quite small.  But, the stakes are quite high.

Edit to add another similar story – 7/30/17:  Man kills doctor after he refuses to prescribe pain pills for wife

I’ve previously written about incidents in dental offices:

Have you even talked about this in your practice?  Comment below!

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2 Responses to Stranger (Danger) in Plain Sight

  1. John says:

    Hospitals are big places and not necessarily one big happy family. I’ve often heard nurses trashing a doctor behind his back. I wonder how many would care about who was looking for that doctor.
    Regarding security… I once entered a major facility in NYC (Beth Israel on 14th) through a side door I found unlocked. (I was too lazy to walk around to the front and in a hurry to make a visit). I was wearing an old leather bomber jacket, no necktie, no ID badge. I got in the nearest elevator and walked around until I found my wife’s room. Nobody gave me a second look.
    My point is, even if the shooter “lucked” into finding the doctor, the doctor had no way to defend himself.

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