Sunday, May 18, 2008

Healthcare Security

√Hospitals, clinics and other healthcare centers face a number of challenges from the disaster response/crisis management point of view. Patient care must remain paramount as areas are secured or evacuated depending on the response required. Patients may require protection from the crisis or they may in some cases be the cause of the crisis. Patients with mental health issues may try to injure themselves or others prompting a response action to mitigate the situation without escalation or the potential for the patient to be injured. Case in point, many health care facilities have some type of isolation room for mentally ill patients that have not been admitted yet. The room itself presents a challenge as fire codes necessitate the door to open inwards making it easy for a patient to barricade the door shut. A solution is a double hung door, the main door opening inwards to meet fire codes but with second door mounted within that opens outwards. The second door can be used be hospital staff to gain access to barricaded room.

The staff members likely to be entering a room under such circumstances would be the healthcare security officers. Security officers working in the healthcare industry face some of the most unique challenges of any security specialist. Hospitals and clinics must admit patients who may be in a variety of physical as well as mental states. In addition to suffering from various physical traumas, patients may be under influence of drugs (including alcohol) as well as suffering from some mental illness. Security officers have to be able to minimize the risk to healthcare providers and staff without interfering without adversely effecting patient care.

Patients present the most obvious challenges but the threats don’t stop there. Distraught family members, jealous spouses, angry acquaintances are just some who may show up at the hospital with less the noble intentions. Security personnel have to be able to respond without disrupting other critical functions of the healthcare facility. The security staff may face a disgruntled current of former employee who wants to demonstrate their displeasure through an act of violence. Then there is the ever-present risk posed by the hundreds of visitors, vendors and contractors roaming through the facility at any given time.

Unlike other branches of security, healthcare security officers vary in qualifications and training from facility to facility. While this allows each facility to address its needs, it creates a challenge for officers looking to transfer and may lack the requisite qualifications thus resulting in reduced pay. The healthcare facility is challenged to properly recruit those with the necessary background to senior positions on their security staff. Yet many healthcare security officers, along with the International Association of Healthcare Safety & Security (IAHSS), are working to create standards for their officers on a state level.

We in Cincinnati State have launched a new Leadership in Healthcare Security Certificate to help in the creation of standards for officers in Ohio. The certificate is a 24 credit hour program that will allow officers to build on their IAHSS certification and earn a college certificate. The certificate course work counts towards the associate’s degree in Healthcare Security. By partnering with a local healthcare alliance, we are able to offer these courses on the hospital facilities. The partnership allows officers to go directly to class after their shift is completed. Officers from several major hospitals in the vicinity are expected to be able to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

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