Training for firearm-related violence
As the daughter of a retired law enforcement officer, I was honored to assist with the implementation of 2019.5—Creating Safe Work and Learning Environments for Student Pharmacists, Pharmacists, and Pharmacy Technicians at APhA2019 in Seattle.
The impetus for this resolution focused on the increased need to address prescription drug theft, especially today when the opioid crisis is rampant and drug-seeking behaviors are continuously growing more prevalent. According to Pharmacist Mutual, the DEA reported 822 pharmacy robberies during 2016. The Indy Star reported that Indiana alone leads the nation with the most pharmacy robberies between 2013–16. Firearm-related violence is a constant concern among my Indiana peers and other colleagues from across the country. Safety is needed and extra guidance should be provided to prepare student pharmacists.
A robbery could happen to anyone, as it did to my best friend during her first professional year of pharmacy school. All pharmacy personnel need extensive training for firearm-related situations, especially for those that may involve active shooters.
On campus training
Since 2017, The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Pharmacy has expanded their training for first- and third-year student pharmacists via a program called “How to Stay Safe During a Pharmacy Robbery.” As OSU Clinical Pharmacy Professor Donnie Sullivan, PhD, stated, “It is the taboo subject no one wants to talk about until it happens.”
Failing to plan for such moments can be detrimental, physically and emotionally, for all those involved. Dr. Sullivan’s training explores aspects such as robber characteristics, self-awareness when entering/leaving for the day, robbery prevention, and self-awareness during/after the robbery. His approach allows students to dissect videos of pharmacy robberies and identify moments where the pharmacist did well and not so well. The University of Findlay College of Pharmacy and University of Cincinnati have also adopted some of his lessons as best practices.
Contact your school leadership to encourage advocacy for such training or to intensify the lessons regarding safety you are already learning. Advocating for this idea can save lives. Do not wait for this to happen to you.
Tips to consider
In case of a robbery, here are a few tips that law enforcement officers suggest:
1. Do exactly what the robber tells you to do without arguing.
2. Don’t try and call 911 during the robbery. This could potentially complicate/escalate issues, such as a hostage situation.
3. Don’t stare into the eyes of the robber.
4. Take short and swift glances of the “robber’s profile.” Characteristics such as height, hair and eye color, tattoos, and tone of voice.
5. Verbalize everything you are doing. For example, “The keys to the safe are in my pocket. I’m grabbing them to open it.”
6. Follow their orders, but do not speak with and do not rush or emphasize that “I am hurrying.”
7. If they want to get into your pockets, or into the pharmacy, just let them.
8. Lock the doors immediately after the robbery, as it is now considered a crime scene. Don’t let anyone leave or come in until the police arrive.
Always remember that no drugs are worth saving and your life is more vital. Be prepared, know the signs, and I ask that you speak up!
Laura Sosinski is a final-year PharmD/MBA candidate at the Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and 2019–20 Chair of the APhA–ASP National Policy Standing Committee.