Keeping the Program Healthy

Training and technology strengthen North Carolina hospital’s security unit.


Winston-Salem’s Forsyth Medical Center (FMC) is the second-largest hospital in North Carolina, and getting bigger. FMC recently launched the largest healthcare capital improvement program in North Carolina history, with $247 million earmarked for

  • A new emergency department (ED) containing 81 treatment rooms, which opened in October 2004.
  • A 60-bed intensive care unit (ICU) opening later this year.
  • A 1,425-car parking garage coming in mid-2006.
  • A nine-story North Pavilion for the Sara Lee Center for Women’s Health and the Forsyth Cardiac and Vascular Center, scheduled to open in early 2007.
  • Extensive renovation of the existing third, fourth and fifth floors, to be completed in 2008.

One hundred fourteen medical-surgical beds will be added to meet the inpatient demands of the community, bringing FMC’s total bed count to 961.

Each of the new additions to our 77-acre campus has unique security requirements, from protecting visitors in the five-level parking garage to safeguarding newborn infants in the 19 labor, delivery and recovery (LDR) suites and the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), which serves a 20-county referral area. The ED always generates the highest number of security calls in any hospital. With more than 90,000 emergency patients treated annually, FMC’s ED is the scene of frequent conflicts and disturbances that expose physicians, nurses and other employees to verbal and occasionally physical abuse.

To cost-effectively achieve the highest level of security for our new facilities, we formed a partnership early on with David McMillan, director of facilities planning, and Peterson Associates and Freeman White, project architects, to develop and implement a five-year strategic security plan. This plan includes the infrastructure for all required security systems; augmentation of public safety staffing; additional radios, vehicles and other equipment; and the revised policies and procedures needed as each new facility opens to the public.

Protecting FMC’s new and existing facilities is the responsibility of the 27-member Public Safety Team. Re-engineered from a traditional hospital security department early last year, the Public Safety Team remains small when benchmarked against comparable hospitals. However, we use the twin force multipliers of training and technology to leverage the effectiveness of our uniformed officers.

Increasing Training, Lowering Turnover
Beginning in 2003, all public safety officers (PSOs), from the newest recruits to 25-year veterans, received 216 hours of basic training.

The curriculum includes:

  • IAHSS Basic, Health and Safety, and Advanced Training Standards
  • AHA Heartsaver Course
  • ASP Baton Certification
  • CPI Nonviolent Crisis Intervention
  • OSHA Hazardous Materials Operations and Technician Level Courses
  • Defensive tactics, handcuffing and use of force training from Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD) instructors.
  • Training required to write city parking tickets for handicapped and fire lane violations.

Once basic training is completed, all PSOs are required to complete at least 48 hours of in-service training annually. The communications technicians (CTs) who staff our new public safety communications center also complete the IAHSS Basic Training Standard. CTs then attend the APCO Public Safety Telecommunicator I Training Course (the same training given to their 911 dispatchers) conducted by the WSPD, followed by in-house training in all aspects of communications center operations. An important part of this training is walking and riding on patrol with PSOs throughout the campus, giving CTs a frame of reference when they observe various areas on the CCTV system.

Training is expensive, and the traditionally high turnover level in many healthcare security departments often makes it difficult to provide the training required for effective job performance. To both reduce turnover and encourage participation in training programs, FMC recently implemented a public safety career ladder similar to those found in many hospital nursing departments. Each rung on the career ladder requires additional education, training and experience, gives members greater responsibility; and rewards them with increased compensation.

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