Patients who bring weapons to the psychiatric emergency room

The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 5.5). 07/1987; 48(6):230-3.
Source: PubMed


The personal characteristics of patients who brought weapons to a university hospital-based psychiatric emergency room were examined. During 14 months following implementation of a routine weapon-screening procedure, 37 (4%) of 1012 psychiatric emergency room patients were found to have weapons. These patients did not differ significantly from a randomly selected control group of non-weapon-carrying patients on a variety of demographic and clinical variables often associated with violence potential, although the weapon-carrying patients were more likely to be male and have a history of substance abuse. The heterogeneity of personal characteristics of weapon-carrying patients is likely to make them difficult to distinguish clinically from other patients. The findings have important implications for maintaining safety in the psychiatric emergency room.

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    ABSTRACT: Violence in the emergency department, a not uncommon but complex phenomenon, may become more serious when patients possess weapons. Searches are used frequently to reduce this danger, though guidelines for searches are not well delineated. We examined our practices in order to formalize our guidelines. Retrospective chart review of patients found to be carrying weapons. General, university-based emergency department in the Northwest. Of 39,000 patients seen during the 20-month study period, 500 (1.3%) were searched. Of all patients seen in the ED, 92% were medical patients (153, 0.4% of whom were searched) and 8% were psychiatric patients (347, 11.1% of whom were searched). Weapons were found on 89 patients (0.2% of all ED patients and 17.8% of all patients searched). Review showed that 24 (15.7%) medical and 60 (17.3%) psychiatric patients carried weapons. Although various factors contributed to a clear bias toward searching psychiatric patients, we believe that the rate of weapons possession did not support this bias.
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