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This is an excerpt from a member-only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe.

Preventing drills that go too far

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September 1, 2010

Learning from one hospital’s serious error

In May, a terrorist drill at St. Rose Dominican Hospital’s Siena campus in Las Vegas proved too realistic for employees and patients. A man wielding a gun entered the ICU and began ordering employees into a break room. Critically ill patients were left temporarily uncared for and employees were deathly frightened. 

According to a July 3 news report in the Las Vegas Sun, an off-duty police officer with an unloaded gun acted as an armed gunman. Employees were unaware that a drill would occur and therefore thought an actual gunman with a loaded weapon was ordering them into a hostage situation.

A far too realistic drill

The hospital’s heads of security, emergency management, and the environmental care committee devised the drill hoping to create a realistic learning event. They told no one—not even hospital administrators—of plans for the drill, an especially egregious omission as just one year earlier, employees of the hospital had experienced an armed, hostile man in the ED who police shot and killed. 

During this realistic drill, nurses and physicians left patients to follow the faux gunman’s orders, including one employee who had been suctioning a patient’s airway. During the estimated 15 minutes the employees were “held hostage,” the patient’s oxygen levels were left unchecked. Meanwhile, the rest of the hospital heard urgent codes being called with no indication that the event was a drill. The gunman also ordered two security guards in the room to discard their radios.

The Sun reported that at least one employee thought he was going to die, and many were thrown into hysterics. Although within five minutes of being brought into the break room, the employees were apprised of the drill, they were held for another 10 minutes while patients were left unattended. 

The result? Two of the three employees were suspended and stripped of their positions, and the security director was fired. The hospital also faced an $800 fine from the state health division and was required to provide counseling for employees who were traumatized.

In May, a terrorist drill at St. Rose Dominican Hospital’s Siena campus in Las Vegas proved too realistic for employees and patients. A man wielding a gun entered the ICU and began ordering employees into a break room. Critically ill patients were left temporarily uncared for and employees were deathly frightened. 



This is an excerpt from a member-only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe.

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