Security officers have a tough job, as sometimes patients and visitors become violent. Assaults of hospital workers are at an all-time high. Local media coverage has chronicled an unfortunate encounter between a juvenile and our security team, but when someone is threatening to come back and “shoot the place up,” these days, you have to take it seriously.

News | 6 months ago

As Seen On TV – Not Always the Full Story

Security officers have a tough job, as sometimes patients and visitors become violent. Assaults of hospital workers are at an all-time high. Local media coverage has chronicled an unfortunate encounter between a juvenile and our security team, but when someone is threatening to shoot people, you have to take it seriously.


If you’ve watched the local media in Charlotte in the past few days, you may have seen some video footage from one of our hospitals that made you uncomfortable. It made us uncomfortable as well.

Because of the special culture we have built at Atrium Health, and our continual desire to learn from incidents like this, we are reviewing the entire event and will make any adjustments that may be needed.

But without context or full understanding of what took place, it’s hard to understand the few seconds shown of the nearly 15-minute incident that took place. While we don’t typically share details about events like this, we believe in being transparent and it’s also important to add some perspective.

In early December of last year, our security team at Atrium Health Lincoln was faced with a difficult situation when a juvenile was brought to one of our facilities, near midnight, by his mother. While outside the facility he became combative and abusive towards his mother upon arrival, both physically and verbally, and as our security team intervened, the juvenile continued with the same behavior towards our security officers.

If audio were available, it would also reveal the juvenile threatening to harm, shoot and kill the security officers and others, necessitating the actions to make sure they could keep themselves, our patients, and our entire care provider team safe. We take threats and acts of violence very seriously.

As his aggressive behavior continued, our security team was put in the position to use force to detain him until local law enforcement officers arrived. Our guards brought the juvenile to the ground, which resulted in a cut lip and some bleeding.

When someone becomes violent or threatens violent acts, Atrium Health has a team of highly-trained security officers who are on hand to protect others from the violent person and, in many cases, protect that person from themselves. When our security team deem it necessary, they must determine the appropriate level of action they must take to restrain or detain a person to restore and maintain safety. This is essential to our ability to provide a safe environment – given the assault rate against healthcare workers continues to rise. 

The video also includes images of the juvenile spitting a mouth of blood in the face of a Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputy, and the deputy reacting by hitting the juvenile. We have spoken with the Sheriff’s office about this incident and made it clear this shouldn’t happen again. According to police records, the juvenile has multiple charges against him.

As many in this field can attest to, healthcare workers face a violence epidemic, from verbal abuse to physical assaults. Here are some staggering facts you might not be aware of and why we take threats and acts of violence so seriously:

Some people have asked why our security team carry tasers or other weapons. This is a result of the reality of the world we live in today. An Annals of Emergency Medicine study identified 154 shootings with injuries at U.S. hospitals, resulting in death or injury to 235 people between 2000 and 2011. Five of the 40 states that had shootings – and North Carolina being among those five – accounted for more than a third of those events. Our officers need to be able to protect themselves and others, given that the assault rate against healthcare workers continues to rise each year. 

Our mission at Atrium Health of providing health, hope and healing – for all, calls us to welcome every patient with open arms. We don’t choose or control the circumstances that brings them to one of our facilities. Because of that, we’ve taken important steps to provide safe environment for everyone who comes to our door. We appreciate all of the ways in which Atrium Health security team keeps our people, our patients and our facilities safe – including the installation of metal detectors in some locations, reducing the number of entry points and de-escalation training.

We are also as equally committed to using this situation as an opportunity to learn and improve. We are also reviewing our policies to see if there are changes needed to improve how we approach these types of situations in the future, without jeopardizing the safety of our security officers, our care team and all others who come to us for care.


Additional resources:

Workplace Violence in Healthcare: 7 Facts to Know

Atrium Health - Preventative Safety Measures Implemented Since 2017