The American Society of Plastic Surgeons and The Aesthetic Society issue joint advisory on threats of violence against plastic surgeons
Leadership of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and The Aesthetic Society have been made aware that some members have been subjected to threats of violence by individuals who object to the types of surgical procedures they perform or the research they conduct and present.
To alert our members of this growing and disturbing trend – and to reinforce our organizations' stance against violence of any kind against patients, physicians or anyone associated with providing medical care – ASPS and The Aesthetic Society have provided links to resources at the bottom of this advisory to provide guidance for members who face acute/heightened threats. These resources include information on how to increase security measures, identify security deficiencies, contact de-escalation teams and other tactics to decrease risk in hospitals and practices to keep staff and patients safe.
For anyone who receives a threat, the first step should be to notify local law enforcement. Whether you work in a hospital or private practice, outside security and/or law enforcement will also provide onsite basic preparedness tips, including what to do in the event of an active shooter or other threat. Additional general safety measures range from being escorted to your car, parking in well-lighted places and learning self-defense tactics.
As threats are often posted on social media, you may consider changing your profile settings on various platforms (including LinkedIn) to "private" and potentially changing your profile name. Be cognizant of revealing your location in photos, stay vigilant and always have an exit plan for wherever you may be. App-based security systems with video monitoring and "panic" or 9-1-1 emergency buttons are extremely helpful. It is also important to maintain strong relationships with your property management company and neighborhood law enforcement. In offices, hospitals and surgicenters, hold mock drills at least annually with a heightened awareness of how to deal with an unruly or violent intruder. The hope is to never need to implement these strategies, but it's important to remain aware of how to protect staff and patients when a threat materializes.
In response to increased reports of aggression, the Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals, put new Workplace Violence Prevention Standards into effect in January that focus on identifying security risks, training staff in violence prevention and collecting information about violent incidents. The standards define "violence" to include aggression that doesn't involve physical contact, such as bullying, humiliation and sexual harassment, both in person and electronically.
In Congress, the proposed Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act (H.R. 7961) would increase penalties for assault and intimidation against healthcare workers, while a budget bill would provide $5 million in grants for healthcare provider safety and security. ASPS and The Aesthetic Society call on leaders to safeguard health professionals and others in healthcare settings from such risks, and we urge Congress to pass the bipartisan SAVE Act, which would offer statutory protections against violence and intimidation for healthcare workers and provide grants for hospital programs aimed at preventing violence in healthcare settings. Leaders across sectors should take care to prevent irresponsible commentary that jeopardizes the lives of health professionals and the patients they treat.
A timely article documenting the rise in violence against healthcare workers and how to help prevent and respond was published in August 2022 by the AAMC and can be accessed online (click here). A joint press release by AAMC and the National Academy of Medicine published Sept. 30 notes: "This nation was founded upon the ideal of civil discourse and the open-minded exploration of ideas through healthy discussion, which should be our guiding force, first and foremost. As a country, we may not agree with each other on all important issues; however, we can agree that inciting violence against other human beings is never the answer."
Please stay safe. We are here for you and stand behind you.
J. Peter Rubin, MD, MBA
President, American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Jennifer L. Walden, MD
President, The Aesthetic Society
Resources and Statements Regarding Workplace Safety
As a medical community, it's important to prioritize the safety and wellness of physicians and their healthcare teams. Below are some resources we have compiled for our members:
- OSHA Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Workplace Violence Overview
- International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety: Workplace Violence Prevention Resources (includes guidelines, policies and security assessment tools)
- Association of American Medical Colleges: Threats against health care workers are rising. Here's how hospitals are protecting their staff.
- Association of American of Medical Colleges and National Academy of Medicine Joint Statement on Violence Against Healthcare Workers
- AMA renews call for gun violence prevention in wake of Tulsa shooting
- American Medical Association: Threats, intimidation against doctors and health workers must end
- American Hospital Association: AHA issues statement in response to shooting at Tulsa hospital