Lab Coats With Bullseyes on Them? Protecting Yourself Against Violence

Gregory A. Hood, MD


July 29, 2016

In This Article

The Responsible, Safe Way to Respond

As I learned from the patient who lunged at me, don't automatically equate an assault with a firearm. Similarly, don't leap to the conclusion that a firearm is your only or best means of self-defense. In my lectures on healthcare workplace violence, I've told the story of how I found it necessary to reeducate a colleague on numerous reasons why a .357 Magnum is a poor choice for personal defense within an ordinary, confined, drywalled exam room.

The first reaction—and most appropriate response when faced with the threat of violence—is to escape. There's no gain from bravado in taking on a potential threat yourself. Escaping or evading an attack, and alerting law enforcement and others who may come into harm's way, are your primary goals and duties. The Texas Department of Insurance has provided an excellent, printable summary of tips for preventing workplace violence.[10]

For the most common types of personal assaults, de-escalation, as I mentioned in a Medscape blog in 2011,[11] is the next tool. There's a real technique to it, and it has the potential to save your life or someone else's.

The final tool, when evasion, escape, and de-escalation are insufficient, is the choice to defend oneself. The key thing to realize, among all of these tools, is that the primary weapon for survival and successful self-preservation resides between your ears. The mind that has served you so ably in training you for a career in healthcare also can be trained in appropriate, fundamental self-defense.

There are a wide array of options in martial arts training and personal defense techniques. These may involve the use of your body, or even simply the pen in your pocket, as a first reaction to violence. Discussions of this sort are beyond the scope or endorsement of this article. That said, there are many high-quality self-defense courses that you can take, online or in person, including those provided by former Navy SEAL Larry Yatch or the Center for Personal Protection & Safety.

After all, once you've achieved such self-awareness and situational awareness, you're never truly defenseless.

Be well. Be safe.


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