In response to rising violent attacks, Duke to add weapon screening at hospital entrances

Travis Long/

In response to rising attacks on employees, Duke Health will soon screen for weapons at the entrances of its major facilities, the health system announced Tuesday morning.

Duke University, Duke Regional and Duke Raleigh hospitals will begin using weapon detection systems in early March. They will detect guns, moderately sized knives and other weapons in an effort to provide “additional safety and security for patients, visitors and staff members.”

Similar detectors have been used in the system’s emergency department for many years.

Visitors will not have to take off their belts or empty their pockets and bags. The detectors are safe for pregnant women and people with medical devices, though anyone can opt to be screened with a hand wand. Those who refuse screening will not be allowed into the hospitals.

Duke Health staff members have faced several violent attacks in the last few years.

In July, police arrested a patient at Duke Raleigh Hospital early after he allegedly punched an emergency room nurse in the face, knocking her unconscious and breaking her nose and eye socket.

In January 2022, a patient at Duke University Hospital in Durham grabbed a police officer’s gun during a struggle and fired multiple shots in the emergency room before being shot by another Duke police officer.

Duke Health has taken a number of other safety measures in response to these incidents, including ramping up the security presence at hospitals and clinics, training staff on de-escalation tactics and making fewer entrances accessible to visitors.

“As acts of violence in health care settings began escalating, we made a pledge to redouble efforts to address safety,” said Ian Brown, chief employee experience officer, in a press release.

Health care workers across the state and country have been the victim of similar attacks.

Two health care workers were injured in January at a Novant Health hospital in Wilmington after a man choked one employee until the employee lost consciousness, and attempted to snap the neck of another.

UNC Health recently created a task force focused on preventing workplace violence and providing support for staff who experienced abuse and violence this past summer. Alan Wolf, a spokesperson for the system, said employees are being taught to recognize and react to potential security issues.

Reports of assaults against nurses have been rising for the past 10 years, Dennis Taylor, immediate past president of the NC Nurses Association told the N&O in July.

“Almost every day, certainly every week, we hear not only of verbal abuse of nursing staff, but also physical abuse,” he said.

Duke Health amps up security measures in wake of attack on hospital staff in Raleigh

Teddy Rosenbluth covers science and health care for The News & Observer in a position funded by Duke Health and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work.