Run. Hide. Fight.

[Warning: this post includes graphic, disturbing content that may not be suitable for children.  Discretion is advised.]

I have been thinking a lot what happened in  D.C. yesterday, and today.

What would I do, if there was a shooting at my workplace?

What would you do, if there was a shooting at your work place?

A mass shooting can occur at any time… it happens in schools, universities, movie theaters, malls, work places.  Yesterday, I listened to a lecture for healthcare professionals, about how to respond if an active shooter arrived at a healthcare facility. The law enforcement professional basically said, “When someone walks in with a weapon, and their aim is to kill you, you must recognize that this is the fight of your life. You need to do everything you can to save it.”

I feel particularly vulnerable because I work with patients daily (in very close proximity) and have been in potentially dangerous situations.  (I have called the police / security a few times.) In the lecture, the law enforcement professional described a story of how a nurse was almost strangled to death by her patient when he grabbed the two ends of her stethoscope hanging around her neck, and pulled them to strangle her, all while she was at the hospital bedside.  Still, in that moment, she did not think to attack him, because she still saw him as her patient. She said something like, “I should’ve attacked his face, but at the time, I didn’t think about that.”

The law enforcement personnel reinforced that when someone is trying to kill you, you must do everything possible to protect yourself.


Call me weird, but I don’t think that’s intuitive for me.  As a nurse, I instinctively want to protect my patients.  (Patients first…) I wrestle with the idea that if there were such a scenario, I may have to abandon my patient to save my life… it seems foreign, like rewiring my brain, to teach it how to respond if I needed to go into ‘fight or flight’ mode.

In the same lecture, he said, “if there is an active shooter, and they shoot randomly, don’t try to protect your patient in that moment – the bottom line is that the police will have to work twice as hard trying to rescue two hostages instead of one.  Also, 90% of hostage situations end in death, so try to escape before getting into a hostage situation. If  you decide to stick with your patient, that’s a noble idea and all … yeah, maybe people will remember you as a hero after you’re dead, if that’s what you want, but the reality is that there will be two dead people instead of one.

Therefore, you need to do 1 of these 3 things: Run. Hide.  Fight.”

The lecture I listened to is not online, but here’s an article with similar tips on how to survive a shooting: Run, Hide, Fight: 11 Tips to Survive a Shooting.


3 thoughts on “Run. Hide. Fight.

  1. Unless there are active drills to put in an ingrained response to shooter situations, the reflexive response of most people will be to freeze up or hide…natural behavior when confronted with unexpected immediate danger.

    I would never call you weird for still caring about your patients under fire. In genuine war situations, there have been many cases military personnel having to deal with feelings of deep shame and guilt over having to leave wounded comrades behind when evacuating from combat zones. The instinct of self preservation is challenged by feelings of responsibility to help those in need. Some people can turn it off while others have greater difficulty.

    These workplace violence events typically increase during times of economic distress when more people feel under pressure as they struggle to make it. Since we’re in the aftermath of the worst recession since the Great Depression, we will likely have a corresponding surge in random violence.

  2. You’re right. Shootings are scary things. I’ve always said I don’t think I could hurt someone unless they were literally attacking me and it was a fight or die kind of a situation. But even then, as in the story of the nurse, for some of us hurting someone else would be anything but natural and the last of of our thoughts! I would always run first, if possible.

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