Record number of gunshot wounds treated at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital
The Level I trauma program at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital treated a record 541 patients for gunshot wounds in 2022, resulting in 69 deaths. 474 of the gunshot victims (88%) were Black males between the ages of 20 and 64. Ninety-nine of those same victims (18%) were between 15 and 19 years old. The total of 541 gunshot victims compares to 530 patients in 2021 and 466 in 2020.
Sentara Norfolk General Hospital receives patients from across the region. Some come directly from the scenes of shootings by EMS. Some are transferred from other hospitals. Some are dropped off by friends who drive away. Regardless of how the patients arrive, gun violence in Hampton Roads continues unchecked.
“Our trauma team is very concerned about this trend,” says Jay Collins, MD, chief of trauma at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and professor of surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School. “We are committed to working with these victims and educating the community about the effects of gun violence and reducing the number of violent acts of all kinds that occur every day in our region.”
Firearms were not the only weapons that sent people to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital last year. There were also 114 stabbing incidents, resulting in one death, and 214 assaults. An additional 27 incidents of domestic violence resulted in three deaths.
Other Sentara hospitals treating gunshot wounds saw slight reductions last year. Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital, a Level III trauma center, saw 98 patients in 2022 versus 106 in 2021. Sentara CarePlex Hospital in Hampton saw 46 gunshot patients in 2022 compared to 50 in 2021.
“Where you live can be a determining factor for many victims of violence,” says Angela Parker, team coordinator of the Foresight Violence Intervention Program at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. "We work with people to change their circumstances and redirect their lives into a healthier and safer place." The Foresight program was established with a federal Justice Department grant administered by the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association.
The Foresight team tries to meet with every survivor of violence in the trauma program. It can be in the ER, a patient room or the patient’s home after discharge. They present the program and the ways they can work with patients and families. About half the patients approached agree to participate. Half initially reject the offer of assistance, but then a small number come back later and ask for help.
“We want to expand the window of opportunity for people to use our services after discharge,” Parker adds. “Building trust and a rapport is vital for the Foresight program to succeed. That happens one conversation at a time, and we will talk as often as it takes.” Parker notes that change demands hard work and time and realistic expectations.
"We partner with patients and families to create opportunities for change," Parker adds. “We want to be with them through the initial recovery phase, then help them learn to live beyond the moment.”
The journey to change can include a GED, attending college or a trade school or joining the military. It can in include securing a steady job and learning how to budget. It can mean going from sleeping on friends’ couches to secure housing, all of which can contribute to an improved quality of life and a safer environment.
Parker also hopes to recruit survivors of gun violence to share their experiences with schools, churches and community groups to help change the social dynamic that breeds violence.
“This won’t change tomorrow,” Parker concludes. “People need to trust that we are here for the long haul.”