BR nurse describes working amid rising gun violence

"At this point, we’re just expected to essentially patch the latest gunshot victim up and send them back out to the streets to either be shot again or they’re going to shoot the person who shot them. One of the two so it’s just a never ending violent cycle. It doesn’t really seem like there’s an end in sight."

“To our leaders, you need to see what your community is like because it’s not good and there’s not going to be a community left if we continue like this.”

“I feel like I live in the wild west and it’s everybody for themselves. I don’t feel safe here. I don’t feel safe at my job.”

“It feels like we’re running from one gunshot victim to the next just trying to keep our heads above water and be able to provide them care.”

Your grandmother, your brother, your sister whoever it may be that came in and is in a crisis is now priority number two because somebody decided to shoot somebody.”

“Our community is battling against us and there’s only so long that we can hold out.”

“Right now, I feel like we’re at war and we have no way of winning and there’s no end in sight.”

Unfiltered with Kiran spoke to a Baton Rouge nurse who works frequently with gun violence victims. A condition of the interview was to keep the nurse and which hospital he works at, anonymous to protect his job.

Although lengthy, the below is verbatim what the nurse said and in his own words.

“It’s scary honestly. I would say that often times I feel at risk myself for some sort of violence retaliation. I mean you’re often times playing so many different roles as a nurse taking care of a gunshot victim whether it be separating families out in the waiting room that are seeking vengeance or playing a social worker.

It’s very disheartening and you kind of feel like at this point, especially during the pandemic with our short staffing when you’re already overwhelmed, it’s almost like your community is letting you down.

I think what’s been so shocking for me is the kids. It’s blowing my mind at the amount of young adults who have access to guns now on the streets and they don’t even understand the concept of the power that they’re holding or the damage they can cause and the severity of their actions. The parents are not holding them accountable if there are any parents even in the picture. There’s really no accountability for the actions. At this point, we’re just expected to essentially patch the latest gunshot victim up and send them back out to the streets to either be shot again or they’re going to shoot the person who shot them. One of the two, so it’s just a never ending violent cycle. It doesn’t really seem like there’s an end in sight.

This shift is incredibly chaotic, which I mean is the world of healthcare as it is right now, and even more so with the gun violence in Baton Rouge. You never know what you’re going to get. You never know what you’re walking into whether it be a patient that has called ahead and saying, ‘Hey, we have this gunshot victim that’s coming in or hey, we have multiple gunshot victims who are coming in. They were all involved in some sort of gang violence or different things like that or they were at a bar and drinking was involved and drugs were involved and several people were shot. Here’s what’s coming in.’ 

Or, it very well may be that we don’t know that they’re coming in until they’re dropped off at our front door and we have visitors at the hospital or our security guards letting us know, ‘Hey, there’s a patient that’s been shot that’s laying at your front door. Can you please go get them.’ Then, it’s an all hands on deck and it feels like we’re running from one gunshot victim to the next just trying to keep our heads above water and be able to provide them care.

It has not always been like this in Baton Rouge. I feel like since the pandemic, it’s as if we have put the overall gun violence in Baton Rouge in a pressure cooker. I don’t know what has really sparked it if it’s people that are struggling with loss of jobs because of Covid and they’re at home frustrated and different things like that. I don’t know what the underlying root of the problem is but it really seems like ever since the pandemic, it’s exponential.

I would tell the people that we are overwhelmed and that at this point, we need them to do their part because they are failing this community. We can only do so much and I know that some of the responsibility essentially is on us in terms of providing care to our community. That is what we signed up for. That’s what all of us went to school for and that’s what we love to do, but at some point you have to draw a line and say enough is enough.

Our doors are bulging from people that are suffering from chronic conditions, emergencies that are unprecedented and unwarranted. There are people that are just trying to seek treatment and do the right thing and we’re trying to provide them care and yet we’re having to stop everything that we’re doing left and right because somebody said the wrong thing to somebody on a street or somebody looked at somebody the wrong way and that warranted being shot. We’re at this point taking care away from those that are most in need because of simple things that could have been resolved in other ways.

Those patients fall to the wayside or they get put on the back burner because somebody is dropped off at the front door and has been shot for simply walking down the wrong side of the street or bumping into the wrong person at a bar, different things like that. Something happened to warrant the shooting and you know, your grandmother, your brother, your sister whoever it may be that came in and is in a crisis is now priority number two because somebody decided to shoot somebody.

By secondhand, our community that’s coming in and seeking healthcare and is in need of our services becomes a secondhand victim of gun violence because they now are priority number two in relation to victims of gun violence. Whenever you have a gunshot victim come in, no matter where they are shot at, it’s an all hands on deck and until that person is deemed stable and moves into the next part of the process, nothing else matters.

There have been several moments recently where I’ve questioned my decision to go into nursing and really trying to remember my “why” and really trying to stay true to that. There have been several times recently where I’ve just felt like nothing we are doing is making a difference and nothing that we are doing matters because people shooting each other are always going to be out there. They are not being held accountable. It feels like there’s no appropriate punishment for the crimes for anything. Right now, I feel like we’re at war and we have no way of winning and there’s no end in sight.

I hope this is a peak because that means there is a decent.

I would say to the parents you need to be more aware of your kids. You need to be more involved. Don’t be afraid to get involved and hold your kids accountable and to discipline your kids and to know what they’re doing because I guarantee you they’re often times not doing what you think they’re doing. They have a lot more access via the internet and on the streets to things we never dreamt of growing up or never thought of. There’s a lot more peer pressure I feel like these days so it’s important to really sit down with your kids and be involved in their lives and make them feel like they have somebody they can come to and they don’t have to be a part of those things and resort to those things to fit in and they also need to know the consequences to their actions and that if they feel adult enough to do those things, then they need to know there are adult consequences that go hand-in-hand with it and what those are.

To law enforcement, they’re fighting the same battles that we are. They’re just on a different side of the fence. They have to deal with everything on the true front lines of gun violence and bring them to us and we work hand-in-hand so I know they’re just as burnt out as we are. They’re short staffed and they feel like they’re doing everything they can but they can’t keep up with the gun violence to keep up with the community.

To our leaders, I feel like they need to be more present and their voices need to be heard and that they actually need to have a voice. It’s one thing to talk the talk during election season and campaigns or whenever you need a vote but you need to think about the community that you’re representing. You need to see what your community is like because it’s not good and there’s not going to be a community left if we continue like this.

I am looking at travel nursing jobs and the first thing I check for a city is the crime. I’m born and raised in Baton Rouge and my dream was to be a nurse in my own city. Now, I’m considering moving. I ask myself constantly, ‘Is this a city I feel safe to drive in to the store alone? Can I park my car and walk into a building and not feel like my life is at risk or I’m being watched?’

Right now I feel like I live in the wild west and it’s everybody for themselves.

I don’t feel safe here. I don’t feel safe at my job. I don’t feel safe driving home, driving to work, driving to the store. There’s not a place that I feel safe even inside my own home. I still feel like everyday is a fight and everyday anything could happen. This community has just become so unpredictable and so volatile.

Walking into work daily, it’s miserable honestly. It’s never what I thought nursing would turn into, what healthcare would turn into. We are incredibly short staffed no matter what department you work in. We’re all burnt out. We’re all doing everything we can just to make it through our shift without being yelled at by patients, family members, complaints and different things like that.

Our waiting rooms are packed. Our ER is full. Our hospital beds are full. We have patients stacked in the hallways that are coming from ambulances that are incredibly sick and deserve a room. They deserve care but we’re unable to provide it because we don’t have a room to put them in or that we don’t have a staff member to take care of them. That just weighs on you.

It’s something somebody chose to do to somebody else and that takes care from another person in the community and then we’re left in the middle. We’re left apologizing to that person who is so deserving of the care and has done the right thing and they have come exactly where they need to be but they’re left in the hall while everybody else is paying attention to somebody that got shot.

Nobody wants to go to work anymore. I feel like there are so many people I work with who are medicated whether it be depression or anxiety because they’re trying to take care of themselves and just keep pushing through these jobs that we wanted or these jobs that we went to school for. We’re trying to stick with it. We’re trying to be there for our community but our community is not there for us right now. Our community is battling against us and there’s only so long that we can hold out for and I think that’s what I’m most scared of, what’s the community going to do then? These people who deserve care whenever there is nobody left to care for them.

Guns are the way to make up for words they’re incapable of.

We have to get to the point where we’re better and we’re doing the right thing. If somebody upsets you, you have to be able to walk away. You have to be able to see that being the bigger person is to be able to walk away rather than picking up a gun. That’s absolutely weak, gutless to pick up a gun and decide to take matters into your own hands and attempt to take someone’s life.

About Kiran Chawla 919 Articles
I'm an Emmy & Murrow Award winning investigative reporter who simply loves my job!

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