Access to firearms is an independent risk factor for completed suicide and homicide, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians screen and counsel about firearm access and safe storage. This study investigates how often pediatric residents screen for access to firearms or counsel about risk-reduction in patients with suicidal or homicidal ideation.
Retrospective chart review of visits by patients younger than the age of 19years presenting to the pediatric emergency department (ED) of a tertiary academic medical center from January to December 2016. Visits were eligible if there was an ultimate ED discharge diagnosis of “suicidal ideation,” “suicide attempt,” or “homicidal ideation” as identified by International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th revision codes and the patient was seen by a pediatric resident before evaluation by psychiatry. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze results.
Ninety-eight patients were evaluated by a pediatric resident for medical assessment before evaluation by a psychiatry team during the study period and were therefore eligible for inclusion. Screening for firearm access was documented by a pediatric resident in 5 of 98 (5.1%) patient encounters. Twenty-five patients (25.5%) had no documented screening for firearm access by any provider during the ED visit, including in 5 cases when patients were discharged home.
Pediatric residents rarely document screening for firearm access in patients with known suicidal or homicidal ideation who present to the ED. Additional understanding of the barriers to screening and potential strategies for improving screening and counseling are critical to providing appropriate care for high-risk pediatric patients.