Arm Your Employees?

A recent workplace shooting occurred on the campus of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, just outside of Philadelphia. A patient arrived about an hour early for an appointment with his psychiatrist and opened fire, killing a caseworker and striking his psychiatrist in the thumb. Another bullet grazed the doctor’s head before he managed to pull a handgun from his desk and shoot his patient three times, critically wounding him. The patient was reportedly upset about a ban on possessing weapons on hospital property.

By shooting back, the doctor likely saved his life and perhaps those of  others. The patient had an additional 30 rounds of ammunition on him and was said to have been prepared to kill more people. Responding with fire, however, carries its own risks. From a news report on the incident:

“Very few people are proficient enough to hit what they're aiming at, especially in a crisis," said Joel Dvoskin, a University of Arizona psychologist who works with the Threat Assessment Group, a national organization specializing in preventing workplace violence.

In TAG seminars, Dr. Dvoskin emphasizes the need for early identification of troubled people and proactive efforts to get them help. He cites a "combination of anger and despair” as the problem, and points to the important opportunities presented by sophisticated customer service for management of violence risk. “The more enraged people are,” he says, “the more likely they are to engage in violence.”


1.  Burling, S., et al. “Medical workers say violence is too often part of the job,”  1 Aug. 2014.  Web. 10 Aug. 2014.

2.  Sullivan, V.  “Mercy Fitzgerald shooting suspect out of hospital, placed in prison,” Delaware County Daily Times.  8 Aug. 2014.  Web. 10 Aug. 2014.

Simon Levshin