Train Security

Having retired last June after 24 years of working at three of the larger medical centers in Southern California as the director of security/public safety and emergency management, I have a few observations regarding your March 17 cover story, Call Security.

I find it interesting that the hospital public-affairs individual interviewed for the article did not specifically address the security department’s training. She says that the security staff attends a three-week orientation. From experience, that usually means they shadow a more knowledgeable staff member so they can learn their way around the hospital, and the various routines that security does daily, and review departmental policies and procedures. Seldom does any documented learning take place.

She also states that staff attend non-violent crisis intervention training. Most of these programs do not involve any hands-on techniques to safely restrain an aggressive individual. Yet the staff is accused of tackling individuals. So how are they receiving the hands-on training they apparently need?

At my last medical center in San Bernardino (2006, 56 homicides, 4 officer-involved) my public safety staff was required to successfully complete, within their new-employee period, in addition to a an “orientation”: 40 hours of certifiable on-line healthcare-specific security training; 16 hours of Management of Aggressive Behavior training, including how to safely physically manage an individual; and four Federal Emergency Management Agency emergency management on-line training classes. Additionally, due to our involvement with the Sheriff’s Terrorism Early Warning Group we had staff complete the state-certified Terrorism Laision Officer class. Supervisors and management level staff attended additional training.

While training is certainly an investment, it is much cheaper than a suit. And it greatly aids in a legal defense when you can say that your hospital is only one of two in the state with a nationally accredited security department.

My staff has also found that the quicker you attend to anxious visitors and, as their advocates, seek solutions to their anxieties, the sooner the situation will de-escalate. Ignoring it, as in “It’s not my job,” never works.

Yes, and you will find that the hospital staff is at times wrong, while the visitor is correct!

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