As of June 12, 2023, the Emergency Department (ED) at St. Paul’s Hospital (SPH) will be the first ED in British Columbia to screen patients and visitors for weapons. Weapons screening is one part of a broader safety framework designed to improve safety and security for patients, visitors and staff in the ED.

All patients and visitors to the SPH’s Emergency Department will be screened for illegal weapons as well as items not traditionally considered as weapons but that could be used in a way that causes death or injury (e.g. hammers, screwdrivers, household knives).

Security officers will screen all patients and visitors entering the Emergency Department via the Emergency Entrance doors, presenting weapons screening in the context of keeping the Emergency Department a safe space for patients, visitors and staff. Staff, including Security, will rely on patients and visitors to self-disclose if they have a weapon; they will not perform bodily searches.

If a patient or visitor responds “yes” to having a weapon, they will be asked to step out of the line and go to a separate area where they will be asked to either hand over the weapon for the duration of their stay in the hospital or leave and return without it. Security staff will document and securely store the items that could be used as weapons and return them to patients upon discharge. Visitors can retrieve their items that could be used as weapons when they leave. Illegal weapons (e.g. firearms, brass knuckles, cross-bows) will be reported to the authorities and not returned to their owners.

Patients who arrive at the Emergency Department by ambulance or those who are medically unstable when they arrive will triaged and stabilized first. Once they are stabilized, ED staff will ask the screening questions.

The weapons screening guidelines were developed by a PHC working group that included representatives from the Emergency Department, Integrated Protection Services, Risk Management and Occupational Health and Safety. The working group modelled the Emergency Department program on the one currently in place at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton. The guidelines were also reviewed by PHC’s senior leadership team.

Weapons screening and the ED safety framework

The Emergency Department has been preparing for this change for months. Staff and medical staff have received training on weapons screening and it has been discussed in staff huddles. Posters have been put up around the ED to remind patients and visitors that the ED is a weapons-free zone. External partners like Vancouver Police Department and Emergency Health Services have also been briefed and are supportive of the initiative.

ED leadership worked closely with Integrated Protection Services to ensure that security officers are fully briefed on the screening protocols. This is in addition to mandatory training in diversity and Indigenous awareness and trauma-informed care that all security guards complete before beginning work in any health-care facility.  More broadly, ED leadership has been working closely with Indigenous Wellness and Reconciliation (IWR) to improve the care experience.

“Violence is a significant concern in the St. Paul’s Hospital Emergency Department – staff, medical staff, patients and visitors are exposed to violent and aggressive incidents daily,” says Cindy Elliott, program director, Emergency. “Weapons screening is part of an overall safety framework designed to improve safety and security in the Emergency Department for all.”

Other elements of the ED Safety Framework include restricting access to the ED and the introduction of safety support workers. If you have any feedback regarding the ED Safety Framework and associated initiatives, email the Office of Strategy and Results at

Providence has identified physical and psychological safety as key employee wellness indicators. Integrated into the Mission: Forward strategic plan, and a main objective within the “Workforce + Wellness “ priority strategic initiative, there are many initiatives, including this one, underway to improve safety at all Providence Health Care locations.

Providing the best care to the people we serve is dependent on our own health and wellness. We can’t work if we’re not well, and work cannot be what makes us unwell. For 2023 we are working on a set of actions and strategies that will help us to create a healthy and safe work environment where everyone can flourish. We are also building out initiatives to bring new people to Providence, and keep the amazing people we currently have. If you have an idea that would improve your work life, please send it to Ideas: Forward. If you have questions or feedback about Workforce + Wellness, please be in touch: