Kaiser Nurse Dies By Suicide At Work

3 Min Read Published May 9, 2022
Kaiser Nurse Dies By Suicide At Work

Disclaimer: This story discusses suicide and self-harm. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the 998 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 998, text TALK to 998, or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources. 

On Wednesday, April 27th a male nurse at Kaiser's Santa Clara Medical Center shot and killed themselves during their shift. The nurse brought a loaded handgun to work and shot themselves halfway through an overnight shift while working in the Emergency Room. According to statements from Kaiser Health, the event took place in a supply room in front of a fellow coworker. At this time the name of the individual has not been released.   

 “Kaiser is notoriously bad with their mental health services, so this is obviously not a good look for them. Nothing will change. Nurses are burnt out and COVID highlighted how undervalued our labor is and we are nothing but a commodity to hospitals,” said a nurse who works at Kaiser Santa Clara. “The sad thing is his coworkers will feel his loss deeply but Kaiser will have his shift filled before his body is in the ground without addressing the bigger issue which is their abysmal mental health services for their patients and staff.”  

After the event took place, ambulances were diverted; however, the ER stayed open and all patients and staff remained. "Our teams are on site providing emotional support and resources for staff. We are grateful to our employees and physicians who responded immediately and for the compassionate outpouring of support our Santa Clara team is receiving from colleagues at Kaiser Permanente and other healthcare systems. The Santa Clara Medical Center remains open and ready to care for our patients,” said Dr. Rakesh Chaudhary, the hospital's physician-in-chief.  


The nurse’s suicide comes just a few months after the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (HR 1667) was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden. The law was designed to strengthen federal resources to fight burnout, prevent suicide and raise awareness about depression and other mental health issues among healthcare workers.    

Nurses at Higher Risk for Suicide   

A recent study published by the CDC showed that more than 70 percent of health care workers in the US suffer from anxiety and depression, 38 percent have symptoms of PTSD and 15 percent have had recent thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Additionally, a 2019 report by Judy Davidson, a UC San Diego nursing and psychiatry researcher found that nurse suicides were 41 percent higher for male nurses and nearly 58 percent higher for female nurses as compared to the general population.   

The incident at Kaiser only further sheds light on the mental health tolls the pandemic has taken on healthcare workers. While details of the suicide remain unknown as authorities investigate, it is impossible to say if workplace stressors played a key role in this nurse’s mental health struggles. Unfortunately, it is another example of the hardships healthcare workers are struggling with. In fact, Kaiser may be providing resources for mental health to the employees as a result of the incident – they are still expecting their workforce to come to work and care for patients. There have been reports of nurses in the Kaiser healthcare system volunteering to float to the Santa Clara ER in order for their staff nurses to get counseling after the event.   

An August 2021 study out of UCSF reported that hospitals in California are short staffed the equivalent of more than 40,000 full-time nurses which is nearly 14% less than what is needed. There are continued reports of nurses in California being overworked, understaffed, and required to do mandatory overtime.  

Stanford nurse Michael Odell, 27, abruptly left his shift in January and committed suicide. Along with officials and family, many local nurses also helped in the search until his car was found near a toll plaza across from Dumbarton Bridge at the shoreline of the wildlife refuge in Fremont.   

David Hernandez, an ER nurse at Stanford was one of the many who helped search for Odell. “It’s deeply ingrained in nursing culture to put yourself last,” said Hernandez. “Being an emergency room nurse was hard before COVID-19 – but since then, you took a hard job and threw gasoline on it.” Hernandez is one of many nurses that has suffered from stress, depression, and anxiety and regularly sees a therapist to manage it.  

Nurses Supporting Nurses 

While the nurses at Kaiser Santa Clara continue to struggle with the events of Wednesday, multiple nurses in the area have reached out offering to help. CRONA nurses, the union representing over 5,000 Stanford nurses, have voiced their support for the staff at Kaiser with some even delivering food and care packages to the ER staff.  

Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

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