Mass Shootings: Nurses’ Role in Saving Lives

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

I woke up the morning of 10/2/2017 in shock and heartbroken – once again. It’s a feeling that I’ve felt before; after Aurora, Newtown, Charleston, San Bernardino, and Orlando, just to name a few. However, I see the Las Vegas shooting differently, now through the lens of an injury prevention nurse.  After having the opportunity of being an injury prevention coordinator at a major level 1 trauma center, I now appreciate the importance of prevention and the role nurses have in saving lives. My experience in this role has empowered me to become a powerful advocate. 

Our Potential Impact

With over 3 million nurses in the United States, this is our time to stand up and take action to stop these preventable tragedies from happening.  Sometimes we think our job is just working 12-hours shifts, when we clock-in until we clock-out. However, as the most trusted profession, we can use our knowledge, influence, and experience to make change both on AND off the clock. We have the potential to lead initiatives to prevent mass shootings by advocating for sensible gun safety policies.

Role of Nurses

With my past role in injury prevention, my eyes to the role nurses have beyond the bedside were opened. As an injury prevention coordinator, my job was to develop programs to prevent deaths from trauma, specifically related to falls, motor vehicle crashes, etc. While I wasn’t directly caring for patients, my main goal was to prevent the traumatic events from occurring in the first place. In nursing, should we be focused on prevention as much as we focus on caring for patients after they are sick or injured? Think about it.

At the bedside, do we ensure the older adult who fell is being discharged to a home that is safe? Do we provide them with evidence-based falls prevention classes they can attend in their community? Or do we just check the box in the Electronic Health Record to meet the standard discharge requirements?

In the community, do we advocate for laws and policies that prevent injuries and deaths related to distracted driving? Or do we just care for the injured victims when they arrive at our hospital in critical condition?

Mass Shootings

I feel that this is our time, as nurses, to advocate for proper preparedness and prevention measures for the sake of our communities. We can’t just hope that another incident like this won’t happen in the future. We must ACT!  You have to ask yourself, what is my role, as a nurse, to prevent injuries and deaths from mass shootings?  The time is now for nurses to work together to prevent these tragedies.  We can’t just wait in the trauma bay to care for patients after a mass shooting. We need to proactively work to prevent mass shooting fatalities and injuries from occurring.

So, What Can Nurses Do?



It’s time to know your legislators. You can begin by searching for your Senators and Representatives. I’ve placed a link below. You can call, email, and visit your representatives as a constituent (voter) and share with them your concerns as a nurse.

Participate in professional nursing associations. The ANA (American Nurses Association) has released a statement in support of sensible gun safety laws and encourages participation from nurses during ANA’s Lobby Day in D.C.

Advocate changing cultural norms around violence. Norms can be protective against violence and they can also encourage violence. Nurses can be active in setting healthy norms in their families and communities.


Volunteer in your local community to educate the public on gun safety. There are many organizations that offer free gun locks along with gun safety education. Search online and volunteer for an organization in your area.

Address risk factors known to contribute to violence such as access to lethal weapons, lack of mental and physical health services, lack of educational opportunities, and social and geographical isolation.


Make sure your hospital is prepared

How often does your hospital do mass shooting trauma drills? Do they even do them? If so, do they use live actors? Do you and other staff participate and know the plan?

Ask your unit manager about this and offer to participate. If your facility doesn’t practice, offer to help develop a program. Maybe you and your unit want to lead the initiative together.

Stop The Bleed

Stop The Bleed is an initiative by the American College of Surgeons and Hartford Consensus to educate the public on bleeding control and to make bleeding control kits readily available for public access in the event of an emergency. As nurses, we need to support this lifesaving initiative. Someone with life-threatening bleeding can die in minutes. We need to make sure the public is trained in the event of an emergency so they have the knowledge to save someone’s life until first responders arrive at the scene. Link below.

Become a regular blood donor

Blood donations are always needed after incidents like Las Vegas. When the need is so great, blood will be flown from other cities to the one affected. So, even if your city is miles away, it may be used. We can’t just wait for incidents like these to donate blood. If you are eligible to donate, please consider becoming a regular donor. Link below.


When mass shootings occur, healthcare providers need to be ready to act. You can sign-up to volunteer with a disaster organization like the American Red Cross.

You can also take online courses to become certified in disaster management. Link below.



Find your representatives

Stop The Bleed

Blood Donations

ANA Press Release

American Red Cross


ANCC- Disaster Certification

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence


This post is dedicated to the victims, their families, first responders, and healthcare workers involved in mass shootings.

Cary Cain, MPH, BSN, RN contributed to this post.

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