From the title of this blog post, you might have thought this was going to be about which weapons a social worker should or should not carry for self-defense. Not so!
This entry discusses what a social worker, case manager, or home health nurse should do regarding the presence of weapons during a house call.
Some companies dictate that all weapons are to be stowed away or secured before the visit. This is a good policy, and many members will do so before their provider arrives.
However, this is not a “one size fits all” solution. Attitudes towards weapons, especially firearms, vary greatly by region here in the United States. For example, a .45 handgun lying on an end table might not bother a case worker in Tennessee or Texas, but somewhere else, would be cause for alarm.
Here’s a common scenario I hear from various providers:
“I was conducting a home visit with one of our members. He was cooperative and pleasant as usual. I was sitting at the table when I noticed I was actually sitting between him and a shotgun on the other side of the room, in a corner. I thought about our company policy to ask him to secure it or put it away.
“This thought was overruled by my instincts, which said, ‘Our visit is going very well. Right now, I’m between him and the gun, and he’s not even thinking about it. If I ask him to move it, that means his attention will be directed to the weapon, and he will pick it up. Now, I’ve called attention to the gun and it’s in his hands, when a minute ago, he wasn’t even thinking about it.’”
So what to do? I think it all come back down to instincts, and making a judgement call based on the situation.
In the instance above, I would have done what the case worker did: continue the visit and not bring attention to the weapon. Is this in keeping with company policy? Maybe not, but it sure is in keeping with common sense and a sound situational decision.
In New York State, managers and home health providers have said that due to very strict gun laws, a weapon could likely mean trouble, and perhaps illegal activity. In that case, policy should be followed closely. Politely shut down the meeting and leave.
It is also worth remembering that a volatile person in a work – or non-work related setting – can inflict great harm, even if a gun or knife, what we typically think of as “weapons,” are not present. Weapons of opportunity, such as a heavy vase, ashtray, or bedside lamp can be lethal, as can scissors or a letter opener left in plain view on the desk.
Just some food for thought with regard to your personal safety and situational awareness.