Although it is no longer unusual to see mass shootings in the news headlines, most people don’t expect one to happen in their hometown. As mass shootings become more common—and more deadly—though, emergency physicians increasingly may face the grim challenge of caring for multiple shooting victims while wondering how something like this could happen in their town.
Ryan Petersen, MD, an emergency physician at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, Oregon, was enjoying an ordinary day of running errands when he got a call from his hospital that there had been a shooting at Roseburg’s Umpqua Community College,and that he was needed at Mercy to care for the victims. Ten people, including the gunman, died from the shooting, and nine others were injured. Ten of the victims were taken to Mercy Medical Center for treatment.
Dr. Petersen recently sat down with ACEP Now Medical Editor-in-Chief Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, FACEP, to talk about his experiences caring for those injured in the shooting and how the event has affected both him and his community. Here are some excerpts from their conversation.
KK: Although it weighs heavy on people’s minds and hearts, I appreciate your being willing to talk about this. Where were you on the date of that event?
RP: I was actually driving to the store to pick up my 4-year-old’s birthday gift. I was about a half mile away from the hospital.
KK: What altered your course that day?
RP: I got a phone call from Melissa Norris, our on-site assistant, and she told me the initial report was there were up to 30 victims in a shooting at Umpqua Community College (UCC).
KK: Did you have your children in the car with you then?
RP: No, my wife was in Utah with both of my kids. I told Melissa, “I’ll be at the emergency room in a second,” hung up, called my wife, and I said, “There’s been a shooting at UCC. I want you to know that I’m OK, but I’m going to try to help out with it.”
KK: When you got there, how did the department look? Was it business as usual?
RP: The climate was definitely different. You could tell everybody was very tense. The entire emergency department was full of nurses, general surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, as well as the majority of the ER staff.