You got the job - Now what?

Peer and professional groups can help newly hired hospital security executives tackle the toughest issues


Congratulations on your promotion to Security Director! Whether you are stepping into the leadership role of a well-established security department or being asked to build a new program, chances are you are asking questions like: "Now what?" or "Where do I start?" Fear not - this job is not as hard as it seems. And like most worthwhile endeavors, the rewards usually go to those who embrace slow and steady progress over big changes.

First, take heart in the fact that you are not alone and you do not need to create a custom security program from scratch. This is where joining professional groups and networking become important. Take advantage of the existing knowledge base by seeking out peers from other hospitals in your region. It is easier than you might think - and most metropolitan areas already have professional groups dedicated to hospital security.

For a 30,000-foot national overview, you should consider groups like ASIS International or the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS). ASIS is the larger of the two and sponsors a Healthcare Security Committee made up of volunteers dedicated to the advancement of healthcare security. Becoming a member of this group is as simple as joining ASIS, and then throwing your name into the ring. IAHSS is smaller - but more focused, as healthcare security is its primary concern. Both offer certification programs that can help add credibility to your role.

Regional and local professional groups run the gamut from full-blown associations with hundreds of members to just a few like-minded colleagues meeting over coffee. As a general rule, you are looking for people with similar responsibilities who come from hospitals of like size. This is especially important when you are hunting for best practices and incident data. It does little good to compare a 100-bed regional hospital with a Level One Trauma Center that treats a quarter-million patients each year. The former probably employs a single security officer, 24-hours a day; while the latter has the advantage of much larger security staffs and budgets. Likewise, the number and types of incidents that each one experiences will vary. If both are located in the same geographic area, however, you might be able to share crime data, since bad guys tend to migrate from hospital to hospital.

This does not mean that you should restrict your network and ignore resources outside of your region. Hospitals of like size and location will give you the best comparison for projects that are affected by regional crime rates, weather and the like. The bigger, more visible hospitals, like those listed in U.S. News and World Report's Annual Top 20, are great resources for historical data. If you are considering a particular course of action, chances are good that one of them has already tried it. Use that knowledge to streamline your project and avoid the hazards. Moreover, from a selling standpoint, it is never a bad idea to model a successful program.

In the business world, there is a saying that you should dress for the job you want - not the one you have. The same thinking applies to developing security programs. Find the highest point on the bar - and then aim higher.

As the go-to security person at your hospital, you might be tempted to demonstrate your value by making radical changes - always with the best intentions of course - to improve your security program. And while this is commendable, always keep in mind that the goals and values of the hospital take priority. The best security leaders specifically design their programs to enhance the hospital experience for patients, as well as their staffs and visitors. They approach their duties from an overall business perspective rather than a narrower security mindset.

For example, a regional hospital in the Upper Midwest had grown to a point where available parking was inadequate and a point of dissatisfaction. Patients complained about a lack of available spaces as employee vehicles appropriated the prime spots nearest to the buildings. The hospital's security manager was tasked with creating and implementing a parking control and enforcement program to mitigate those complaints.

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