Messages from MHA's President

From MHA President and CEO Carmela Coyle

Taking a Stand Against Violence

June 09, 2017 By: Carmela Coyle

Kirsty Boden was 28 years old when she died on Saturday – a victim in the attack on London Bridge that claimed the lives of seven others and has left dozens still fighting for their lives in London hospitals.

Kirsty was a nurse who worked at Guy’s Hospital, just a few hundred yards from the bridge. She died doing her duty, following her calling. A statement from her family: “As she ran toward danger, in an effort to help people on the bridge, Kirsty sadly lost her life…Helping people was what she loved to do in her job as a nurse and in her daily life.”

Kirsty’s death, along with the hundreds of thousands of other lives lost to violence each year, is the reason hospitals are taking a firm stand against violence. In the United States alone, nearly 60,000 violent deaths occur each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And more than 2.3 million people annually are treated in hospital emergency departments for violent injuries.

That’s why today, June 9, the American Hospital Association is spearheading a National Day of Awareness to focus attention on ending all forms of violence, now recognized as one of the major public health and safety issues throughout the nation. The initiative is an outgrowth of a project initiated by the AHA Board of Trustees, on which I serve, to give voice to hospital efforts that combat violence in their communities and their facilities.

While today’s effort aims to increase awareness through social media – shared tweets posted photos, and other online activity – this will be a long battle, and one that will not be won easily. Eugene Woods, President and CEO of Carolinas HealthCare System and Chairman of the AHA Board of Trustees, is right in saying that community action programs, such as those already undertaken by hospitals and health systems, are needed now more than ever to help address violence. Failure to do so will mean an increasing toll on your communities and hospital colleagues (in 2014, 75 percent of hospital nurses experienced verbal or physical abuse from patients and visitors, and three in 10 reported physical abuse, according to a study in the Journal of Emergency Nursing).

To get involved with AHA’s Hospitals Against Violence, click here to add your organization as a supporter of the shared commitment to combat violence. AHA also welcomes your thoughts and initiatives; email them to express@aha.org. Here in Maryland, MHA is organizing a forum on workplace violence, tentatively scheduled for this summer, to help you develop strategies for your organization. (Stay tuned for details as we have them.)

I urge you to be engaged with Hospitals Against Violence, for people like Kirsty – a victim and a nurse who gave everything to help others – who inspire all of us to offer healing and hope.

In her family’s words: “We are so proud of Kirsty’s brave actions which demonstrate how selfless, caring and heroic she was, not only on that night, but throughout all of her life. Kirsty – we love you and we will miss you dearly.”