Nurses are in a prime position to research gun violence and look at ways to prevent it, according to a new paper from the US.
The paper, published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship, argues firearm violence is a major public health problem worldwide.
“The goal of nursing is to keep people healthy and safe and to help return those injured to their optimal levels of health”
However, it says there is limited research aimed at preventing or addressing its impact on individuals, families and communities – and suggests nurses are in a good position to fill that gap.
The article from the Pennsylvania School of Nursing and Penn Injury Science Centre highlights nurses’ key role in providing direct care to shooting victims in A&E with well-organised trauma systems contributing to improved survival rates.
“The integration of systems and smooth hand-offs by nurses and other healthcare professionals are central to high-quality care,” said the paper.
Nurses also have an important role in helping patients traumatised by gun violence who may go on to develop post traumatic stress disorder or become depressed, it added.
“Nurses are central to the assessment, early recognition, and management of psychological needs,” said the paper.
However, it also suggests nurses need to be aware of the wider impact including the consequences of witnessing or living in a community where gun violence is prevalent.
For example, children who living in proximity to shootings and hear gunshots in the night report difficulties sleeping and may be more likely to be kept indoors by parents worried about their safety.
Meanwhile, research has found women who witness violence in their neighbourhood are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety and have poorer health in general.
“Nurses in all settings should be attuned to the impact of exposure and assess the needs of both youth and adults,” said the paper, which describes gun violence as a “public health priority”.
With violence on the rise the UK, the need to adopt a public health model – where violence is treated like a disease – has gained mounting support inspired by the success of violence reduction schemes in the US and Scotland.
In September this year, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced plans to set up a Violence Reduction Unit in London that would bring together specialists to work together on a public health approach designed to contain the problem, stop it spreading and address the root causes.
In the US, the debate on gun crime has become polarised between those who are anti guns and the pro-gun lobby.
However, the paper suggests nurse researchers are in a good place to change the course of debate by framing firearm violence as a health issue, as well as getting those affected involved in research.
Source: Penn Nursing
Key areas for research include practical topics such as the most effective ways to mitigate physical injury from gunshots and manage symptoms including psychological effects and long-term pain.
Meanwhile, nurse academics could also explore the impact of different national government policies around the globe.
Lead author Therese Richmond, professor of nursing and associate dean for research and innovation at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, hoped nurses would embrace the challenge set out in the article.
“The goal of nursing is to keep people healthy and safe and to help return those injured to their optimal levels of health and wellbeing,” concluded the paper.
It added: “Understanding the factors that come together to injure people with a firearm in various physical, social, economic, and cultural environments positions nurses to both extend the dialogue beyond pro-gun versus anti-gun and to design and carry out rigorous studies to reduce firearm violence.”