Hospital Security Directors: Bridging Departments for a Safer Facility

December 5, 2021
Hospital security director talking to a nurse and doctor

Bridging hospital security directors’ goal of protecting the facility with clinical teams’ goal of healing takes consistent collaboration among teams. As you know, hospitals are incredibly complex facilities to manage and the role of hospital security directors is not an easy one.

But with the right tools and consistent techniques across the facility, a safer facility can be achieved.

In this blog we’ll review strategies hospital security directors can use to bridge their safety plans with staff’s exceptional care.

Variations in Security Roles

Some facilities define the role, responsibility, or purpose of their security teams as “enforcement” where hospital security directors are viewed as enforcers of the rules, policies, and procedures of the hospital. Others see their security directors as partners in the patient care process. Finally, there’s a group of you reading this saying, “What security?”

While one end of the spectrum might view the security team as “We just call and they handle it.” The other may say, “We don’t want to call security—they don’t focus on patient care.”

It’s not hard to see why these conflicting viewpoints regarding the role of hospital security directors can lead to inconsistent care across facilities, or even within the same one.

Of course, this is not the case in all hospitals, but the tension and the silos exist. Successful safety initiatives can be found by breaking down the walls between the groups in the hospital and creating a culture where safety is paramount and everyone’s responsibility.

Bridging Security and Patient Care

Bringing the entire organization into collaboration with the security department is a proactive and effective way to measurably reduce the risk of violence in hospitals. Sharing these strategies with key stakeholders, such as directors and leaders, can help your security team work cohesively to educate and empower staff across your hospital to stay safer.

1. Define the role and hire, train, and develop to the role

What is the vision you have for your hospital security directors? Security personnel roles need to be defined. Take time and evaluate not only your hospital’s mission and vision, but how that all fits together with the need to balance individuals’ care and welfare with safety and security.

Most health care security teams also see themselves as extensions of the patient care team. Many hospitals hire security professionals that are part-time or retired law enforcement, military, or corrections officers. While this makes sense, be sure you are educating them on the difference between addressing criminal behavior and addressing behaviors driven by mental health diseases, medical complications, or declining cognition.

2. Create intentional partnerships

One place you can start to create a more united response is by having your training team be a multidisciplinary team. Have the trainer from your behavioral health unit train alongside your security staff and those in the emergency department. This develops a wider range of application for the core concepts to a variety of situations and perspectives.

At the end of the day, behavior is behavior whether it’s taking place in the parking lot, the emergency department, the maternity ward, the ICU, or the behavioral health unit. If we work collaboratively to recognize the early warning signs and respond from a consistent approach, we stand a much greater chance at successfully de-escalating situations as they occur.

You can create an intentional partnership with a review team as well. All incidents should be reviewed as learning opportunities. Having a multidisciplinary team conduct the debriefing and review of situations can also foster teamwork among departments.

3. Set realistic expectations

Security personnel have other responsibilities at the hospital that are not related to the patient care aspect of de-escalating or managing crisis situations. We need to be realistic about our expectations for them to serve as primary responders.

If security personnel are the only ones in the hospital that are expected to handle an escalating patient or visitor, there will inevitably be a day when there are too many situations happening at once for them to cover everything.

Everyone can be a part of a crisis response team, and everyone should be expected to work at preventing workplace violence in health care. The other option is to increase staffing or to create a layer of responders solely focused on violence prevention.

Read the fourth CPI strategy for empowering hospital staff by downloading our complimentary resource below.

Collaboration and Cooperation Are Crucial

A culture of collaboration and cooperation is ultimately more productive at improving outcomes than an environment built around the use of force and coercive displays of authority. Balancing Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM is more easily achieved when we empower others to be in control of their own behaviors.

Share your facility’s strategies for bridging hospital security directors’ roles and that of your clinical staff.

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