President's Message

Gun Violence and Working Together

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President Tresa Zielinski, DNP, RN, APN-NP, CPNP-PC

Gun violence. There I said it. I believe the time has come for NAPNAP to take a stronger stand to reduce gun violence and promote common sense gun safety regulations to protect children. I am positive you are as mentally exhausted and outraged as I at each reporting of another mass shooting. We must recognize this as the public health crisis it truly is. Did you know there have been 278 mass casualty shootings in America so far in 2017? That is almost one shooting each day. A mass casualty shooting is defined as greater than four persons injured in a single assault. These statistics come from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks firearm violence across America. As of Oct. 10, there have been 564 children (under the age of 12) killed or injured by a gun and 2,510 teens (12-18). There have been 1,549 accidental shootings (combined children, teens and adults). These numbers are staggering to me. All ages combined, there have been almost 12,000 deaths related to guns in 2017.

While NAPNAP’s current Health Policy Agenda does not directly address gun violence, it does clearly state that we will support and advocate for “injury prevention and harm reduction activities focusing on the leading causes of childhood illness, injury and death.” We are obligated to act in accordance with our health policy agenda, and I believe advocating for common sense gun restrictions is part of our obligation. And just so you know, I am not anti-gun. I am for gun safety and protecting children—all day, every day.

One small hope I found in this disaster was in the partnering of NPs and physicians in Las Vegas. An article detailing the response at the Sunrise Hospital emergency department, a level 2 trauma center that worked to save the wounded, showed how nurse practitioners and physicians are stronger together. Scott Scherr, MD, emergency department director of Sunrise Hospital, described how his department dealt with the huge volume of victims in a MedPageToday article. Scherr's primary responsibility is to ensure the hospital staff have everything they need in an event like this. One of his immediate actions was to ensure that both a physician and a nurse practitioner were assigned to each station in the ED. He also ensured that the hospital had enough blood and transfusion machines.

Working with other “like-minded stakeholders to advance child health and safety initiatives” is another pillar of our health policy agenda. Sunrise Hospital demonstrates our mutual collegiality and support. We have worked with and supported the gun safety efforts of our colleagues at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Although it was before the Las Vegas shooting, my recent presentation to the AAP Board of Directors gave me the opportunity to formally represent NAPNAP and share who we are, what our vision is and how we can work together. I was warmly received. I believe old barriers are being removed because of the urgent need to work together on issues like gun safety and quality health care for children.  

I will continue to look for the bright spots in tragedies. I love the quote that Mr. Rodgers attributes to his mother, “Always look for the helpers. There will always be helpers.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LGHtc_D328)  He concludes by saying, “If you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.” I was lucky to have grown up in a time with Mr. Rodgers.

Like Mr. Rogers, I will continue to hope. But hope is not enough. We should all actively find ways—either individually or collectively—to make things better. Let’s not sit quietly and wait for change. The children depend on us.

Humble and hungry,

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