Hospital Security Roundtable

A look at the trends in hospital security, with input from top healthcare security directors

Mogavero: Many times the officer is the first person a visitor sees when entering the hospital. A smile and a greeting from the officer help to create such an atmosphere. Officers are trained to stop and say hello to employees and staff during the course of their shifts.

Potter: Security should not be threatening except to potential criminals. In today's society, people generally feel more comfortable when security is present, but this presence must be professional in appearance and courteous in demeanor.

Matthews: The human component in the security program continues to be important. People's interactions with properly selected and trained security staff is critical. Technology plays a role by freeing security staff to do the "high-touch" aspects of their job. An example is using technology to remotely lock and unlock perimeter doors on a programmed schedule, which frees up an officer from having to walk around the facilities to do the same task.

ST&D: How can a hospital best protect the nursery area?

Farnsworth: Hospitals use many methods, including key access, card access, remotely viewed and released access, banding systems to prevent unauthorized departure and some still have no physical controls, relying instead on staff awareness.
One successful hospital physically locks the area 24/7, with an auto-release in case of fire. Staff uses a swipe badge, while visitors and patients must activate an intercom and provide ID to staff via CCTV. Patient pre-admission training identifies policies, demonstrates unit-specific staff ID badges and compiles a visitation list. Only Labor & Delivery staff (and assigned support personnel including housekeeping and clergy) have a unique addition to their ID badges.

Potter: Nurseries are best protected by a combination of integrated technology (infant abduction prevention system, access controls, CCTV surveillance) and staff training. A trained, alert staff will always provide the best protection, but with today's staff cutbacks and high turnover this is hard to achieve and maintain.

Matthews: Some practitioners may speak about their protection measures by describing the technology they employ. Technology is only an enhancement and can be defeated. Having a plan, hiring the right people, training and drilling them to demonstrate competency and to test and perfect the response plan is what is needed. Technology is ideal for documenting who comes and goes (CCTV), alerting staff of suspicious activity (alarms) and routing persons to appropriate areas (access control).

ST&D: What are the most important elements of a Security Awareness Program?

1) Ingraining into all staff that security is everyone's responsibility.
2) Forcing staff to take responsibility for access control in their work areas 24/7.
3) Annual (more frequently as needed) risk assessments of the entire facility and surrounding area utilizing real-world data and trending results.
4) Maintaining staff awareness through newsletters, crime bulletins, security training topics or presentations at department meetings.

Mogavero: All employees, including administration and department leadership, must buy into the program. Reminders of the program must be sent out on a regular basis, and random testing needs to be done to determine if employees are familiar with the program.

Potter: Training every staff member (including physicians and students) to be security's eyes and ears, and to report anything and everything that represents a potential threat to the institution.

Matthews: Knowledge is power. Sharing what the environment is, what people should watch for and how to interface with the security staff effectively is key. Demonstrating to patients and staff how the security program has planned to prevent or interdict threats lets them know that they are valued.

ST&D: What do hospital visitor policies consist of and what should they consist of?