One nurse’s thoughts about guns…

The time for polite silence is over.

Question:
Nurse Apple, why did you leave your last ‘New’ job?
Answer:
One flippant remark made by the Medical Director of that company about *How Gun Safety Issues in private homes were communicated to Home Health Clinical staff*

That was the tipping point, anyway.
I was still within my 3 month training period with a primarily amazing Home Health organization.
I was giddy with excitement when I was first hired by this innovative, forward-thinking, community-oriented Health Care organization.

99% of the employees were dedicated, passionate, reasonable people. The goals of the company were in direct alignment with my personal and professional goals as a nurse who cares deeply about homebound people with chronic illnesses or disabilities.

People who know me, know various combinations of things about me. But for the sake of a concise answer to the question at hand, I will summarize a few relevant points.

1) I was raised by my grandfather, a WWII army veteran.
He took me along when he taught gun safety courses in a rural community he lived in during his retirement years.

2) My husband grew up with a father and an uncle who were cattle ranchers in the rural SE areas of Georgia and Northern Florida.

3) I *LOVE* my veterans. Most people know this about me.
I *LOVE* serving veterans through my volunteer and nursing work.

4) I *LOVE* to eat animal flesh. I value and appreciate every morsel of beef, lamb, elk, that I am privileged enough to have honorably hunted and killed for my selfish dining pleasure.

5) I do not shy away from “delicate” or “sensitive” social issues. I feel that if we do not discuss and share our fears/concerns/thoughts about issues such as mental illness and gun safety, we cannot move forward and function as a healthy society.

6) I dig seat belts.
I appreciate Ralph Nader.
(Random, I know, but please hear me out…)

7) I have a 17 year old son who has attended public schools in Portland, Oregon since 2005.
He is my only child, he is my world.

8) I vote.

9) I pay taxes. Nurses are well-paid. I pay *lots* of money in taxes. #Happily

10) My son will be a freshman at MSU in Bozeman, Montana in the fall.
The dorms at MSU have gun lockers available for students living on campus who want to have guns available for sporting and/or hunting use.

11) This one might be less well known:
I enjoy archery, and gun target practice.
But both my son and I have been struggling with some depression over the last couple of years, so my husband and I have *DECIDED TO NOT HAVE GUNS IN OUR HOME AT THIS TIME*

Now, back to the pivotal moment that cemented my decision to leave a new-to-me nursing job that I loved:

The setting was a meeting about how, and if, to proceed with the Home Health care of an individual who was known to be struggling with both debilitating physical, and mental illness.

A Nurse Practitioner (also a newer employee with the company), had called an emergency Ethics Committee meeting to develop a strategy for how we, as a Home Healthcare Team, were going to approach this individual’s care.
It came up *as a side-note* that it had previously been noted that there “might” be guns in the home, and that “perhaps” we should have a Two-Caregiver Buddy System protocol set up for visits to this particular home.

A bit of context:
The general approach to Home Health Teamwork, is that visits are made by individual solo members of the team (Nurse, Social Worker, Physician or Nurse Practitioner, Chaplain) in order to maximize the time and attention that each patient/family receives from the Home Health Team.

I learned, approximately 2 hours before I was scheduled to go meet this patient in their home for the first time, about this “possibility” of guns on the premises.

I requested that we backtrack the conversation a bit, as I was new to the situation, and this issue had not come up yet in my orientation or training.

I wanted more information about what I was heading into, and wanted to discuss the company’s policy for sending employees into homes with guns.

I was silenced.

Apple,” the Medical Director said, “we have the Second Amendment in this country. We have no way of really knowing which private homes we serve may have guns.”

We cannot sterilize every home we go into.”

Stunned, I managed to reply that I had grown up with guns, and that that was not my concern.

What I wanted to know was how my new employer addressed the issue of gun safety for their employees.

Another person in the meeting, a member of the administrative staff, not part of the clinical team, picked up my line of questioning:

What is our policy for disseminating this type of information to clinical staff?” she asked.

This person, also, was silenced.

We were informed that this was not the purpose of the meeting we were having at that time. There was apparently “another committee” that was working on formalizing the organization’s policy on safety issues.

I should clarify that there were other concerns I had about the organization I had been newly hired into.
But all of those concerns were related to a pattern I was beginning to see of serious problems with communication.

That one dismissive comment, in that one specific meeting, was the tipping point for me. I was offered another position the next day, and I jumped on it.

I basically fled that job like my hair was on fire.
Not because I am uncomfortable with Veterans, or people with mental illness, or the possibility that I, as a Home Health Nurse, might be entering into homes with guns.

It was the refusal of a person in power, to pause and communicate about people’s concerns. My concerns.

I was fortunate. This is not lost on me.
I’m an experienced nurse. I can work anywhere.

I felt unsafe, and unheard, and unprotected.
I left.
And my heart aches for people who are not given that choice.

Thank you for reading this.
With love, Nurse Apple

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