Expert panel provides practical advice for talking to patients about preventing firearm injury; organizers remind panelists #thisisourlane
PHILADELPHIA, January 17, 2023 – The American College of Physicians (ACP) and Annals of Internal Medicine hosted a virtual forum on firearm violence where expert panelists provided practical advice for talking to patients about preventing firearm injury. According to the forum organizers, firearm violence is a social pathogen that took nearly 50,000 lives last year alone. As such, physicians on the front lines treating these patients should consider it a public health issue and apply the same prevention strategies they might use for any infectious disease.
“Currently, more Americans lose their lives to firearm injury than to motor vehicle crashes and firearms are now the leading cause of death for children in the United States, said Ryan Mire, MD, MACP, President of ACP. “Physicians and other health care professionals have a responsibility to take action to both prevent these injuries and deaths and care for those who suffer their consequences, including families, communities, and the health care system at large.”
The forum, Firearm Injury: An Escalating Health Crisis, is the first ever on this topic hosted by ACP and Annals of Internal Medicine and was held on Jan. 11. A full recording of the forum is available for replay here and is published in Annals of Internal Medicine along with commentary from Christine Laine, MD, MPH, FACP, Senior Vice President of ACP and Editor in Chief of Annals of Internal Medicine and Sue S. Bornstein, MD, MACP, Chair of ACP’s the Board of Regents. Previous forums from ACP and Annals of Internal Medicine focused on the infectious diseases COVID-19 and MPox.
Following an introduction from Dr. Laine, Dr. Bornstein moderated a discussion with a panel of physician experts who treat patients affected by or at risk for firearm violence. The panelists were led through a series of clinical vignettes and asked how they might approach patient care in each situation. The panelists then answered questions submitted by attendees when they registered for the program.
Panelists stressed the importance of listening to patients and providing a judgement-free space where they could feel safe discussing firearms. Rather than ask their patients about guns specifically, the panelists suggested strategies for giving advice on safety in the context of safe storage and preventing children and other vulnerable people in the home from accessing dangers in the home such as medications, car keys, or firearms.
The panelists also gave advice for caring for patients at risk for suicide and those suffering grief from the loss of a loved one due to firearm violence. Currently, half of firearm deaths are suicides and firearms are the method used for half of all suicides. As such, when suicide risk is a concern, discussion of access to firearms warrants a direct approach, they said. And when patients experience a firearm injury directly or indirectly, the panelists brought attention to resources that physicians may offer from counseling and mentoring to housing and employment support.
"Preventing firearm violence is most definitely ‘in our lane.’" said Dr. Laine. “Physicians encounter patients who suffer the adverse consequences of firearms personally, via injury to a loved one, or because the ubiquity of guns makes them feel unsafe in their communities. Counseling our patients about firearms when we see injury or risk factors is not just our job, but our responsibility.”
The forum panelists included:
- Marian (Emmy) Betz, MD, MPH, Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado, Denver and co-founder of the Colorado Firearm Safety Coalition.
- Thea L. James, MD, MPH, MBA, Vice President of Mission and Associate Chief Medical Officer, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of the Violence Intervention Advocacy Program at Boston Medical Center and founding member of the National Network of Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs.
- Scott P. Charles, MAPP, Trauma Outreach Manager at Temple University Hospital and Director of Temple’s “Cradle to Grave” program.
All firearm-related content published in Annals of Internal Medicine is freely available to the public at https://www.acpjournals.org/journal/aim/firearm-related-content.
About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 160,000 internal medicine physicians, related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
About Annals of Internal Medicine
Annals of Internal Medicine is the flagship journal of the American College of Physicians (ACP). Annals is the most widely read and cited general internal medicine journal and one of the most influential peer-reviewed clinical journals in the world. Annals’ mission is to promote excellence in medicine, enable physicians and other health care professionals to be well-informed members of the medical community and society, advance standards in the conduct and reporting of medical research, and contribute to improving the health of people worldwide. New content is published every Tuesday at Annals.org. Follow Annals on Twitter and Instagram @AnnalsofIM and on Facebook.