By Jordyn Redwood
I’m used to seeing police officers on a daily basis—not that I’m in jail or a frequent traffic law violator, but as an ER nurse, we cross paths every day. ER personnel and law enforcement work hand in hand on many issues.
In the first chapter of my debut novel, Proof, one of these circumstances brings Dr. Lilly Reeves and Detective Nathan Long together. A victim he needs to interview has been critically injured in a car accident. Lilly wants to save her life. Nathan wants information in case she dies.
Ahhh, conflict, the lifeblood of any suspense novel.
What are the most common instances where law enforcement and ER personnel work together?
1. To report a crime. As medical personnel, we are obligated to report injuries that involve crime. Now, often times, the patient is not necessarily forthright with what has happened to them. So, to cover ourselves, we report injuries that involve guns and knives with clear intent to hurt or kill. So, cutting your finger while slicing vegetable isn’t going to cut it—pun intended. Nor is a child accidentally shooting another child with a BB gun. Now, if the story is suspiciously veiled as in my abusive boyfriend didn’t mean to stab me in the chest during his drunken rage—well we’ll report that anyway.
Other crimes we report. Dog bites if serious bodily injury has occurred. Child abuse—but not always directly to law enforcement. Often times, we go through our hospital social work team to report and hotline these injuries. If we think the child needs to be removed immediately—this would be more of an instance to involve the police.
2. If we need help. Many hospitals do not have armed (as in bullets) security anymore. At a neighboring institution, violence against medical personnel got so bad that they started a cooperative effort to staff police in the evening hours. It used to be that medical people just “had to take it” when a patient was violent against them. Now, it is much more common to see charges being brought against these individuals.
Hospital security can only go so far—if things are bad we will call 911. Obviously, an armed intruder, suspicious package, called in bomb threat and missing individual would require law enforcement.
3. To retrieve someone. I am generally not allowed to physically restrain someone and hold them against their will. There are very fine lines here. Is the patient medically competent to make a decision? That’s one of our first questions. Our restraining someone and keeping them in the hospital if they have a medical condition influencing competence, say a head injury, will be easier to defend. But say a teen was brought by their mother for concern for suicide and he just flat out walks out (this is called elopement) of the ED. We will call law enforcement to try and bring him back. They will likely put the patient on an M1 hold—or involuntary commitment—for psychiatric evaluation, so they can justify restraining them and bringing them back to the ED.
What other instances do you see ER personnel and law enforcement working together?
Maybe Mark can add the instances when they need us!
About Jordyn Redwood: She is a pediatric ER nurse by day, suspense novelist by night. She hosts Redwood’s Medical Edge, a blog devoted to helping contemporary and historical authors write medically accurate fiction. Her debut novel, Proof, has been endorsed by the likes of Dr. Richard Mabry, Lynette Eason, and Mike Dellosso to name a few. You can connect with Jordyn via her website at www.jordynredwood.net.
About PROOF: Dr. Lilly Reeves is a young, accomplished ER physician with her whole life ahead of her. But that life instantly changes when she becomes the fifth victim of a serial rapist. Believing it's the only way to recover her reputation and secure peace for herself, Lilly sets out to find--and punish--her assailant. Sporting a mysterious tattoo and unusually colored eyes, the rapist should be easy to identify. He even leaves what police would consider solid evidence. But when Lilly believes she has found him, DNA testing clears him as a suspect. How can she prove he is guilty, if science says he is not?