Avoiding the pitfall of failing to train hospital security staff

Sept. 21, 2013
Consequences can be ugly and very costly to healthcare organizations

One of the most costly mistakes made by security organizations and healthcare facilities is the lack of comprehensive and ongoing training for security personnel. The gold standard for basic healthcare security training is based on the International Association of Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS), as well as the ASIS International training principles. They are the models which enable organizations to deliver the highest level of security services and reduce costs in the long term.

IAHSS and ASIS training recommendations focus on critical areas of security including terrorism, high-risk patient care areas, use of force and weaponry, and overall risk reduction. The IAHSS and ASIS models clarify training needs to help organizations understand how hospital security is different than other types of security services. The nuances and vulnerabilities within the hospital environment are very different than most other environments.

There are many reasons to develop and deliver a detailed training program for security officers. Mandates for training are always a driver for security organizations. Adherence to state regulations, industry requirements and contractual commitments are aspects of training. Regulatory agencies also dictate many of the training components delivered. But mandates alone as drivers are one of the biggest and most common mistakes made by security organizations and healthcare facilities.

It is critical to identify and understand the obstacles and challenges that often sabotage efforts to develop an effective training program. Knowing the obstacles is the first step in overcoming them to fully leverage security resources for optimal performance.

Of all of the obstacles, assuming that “basic training” is enough is the first flaw in training theory. It is closely followed by the misperception that specialty training is a “nice to have” versus a mandatory element of an effective training program.

Security officer training is based on diverse areas of security concerns, including customer service and overall public safety. Officers who fully understand the client’s environment will always deliver the highest quality security services. Officers must be trained on how they can become an integral component of the healthcare organization and what they can do to impact customer service and public safety. This can also result in a positive impact on HCAHPS and other scores.

The cost of insufficient security officer training is extremely high in many areas. The healthcare industry is plagued with liability threats and concerns, and security officers must be fully aware of the risks involved in their realm of responsibility. While most training focuses on what officers should do, a comprehensive training program also focuses on what officers should not do. Litigation comes into play in both scenarios and lack of training budgets will not hold up in court.

One of the biggest risks resulting from lack of training is related to physical risks for officers and other individuals. Personal injury or death of officers or innocent bystanders can result from excessive use of force, inability to properly deploy equipment, or lack of decision-making due to insufficient training.

Investing time and money into the proper training of security officers is essential for the highest level security services. It’s also critical as a way to avoid costly mistakes, litigation, and inappropriate or untimely intervention in situations. Not only is initial training necessary, but also ongoing and continuous training results in a high return-on-investment.

Creating a comprehensive training program that encompasses the three levels of training necessary for a safe and secure healthcare environment is essential. Join me at the Secured Cities Conference on Thursday, Nov. 14 at 3:40 p.m. for a session on "Threat Management for Healthcare Management" presentation to provide you with the knowledge needed to overcome budget challenges and implement the most highly effective training programs in the industry.

About the Author

Lisa Pryse, CHPA, CPP | President-Elect, International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS); and President, Healthcare, Old Dominion Security, Inc.

Lisa Pryse is 2012 president-elect of the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS). She currently serves as the Division President of Healthcare and Chief of Company Police with Old Dominion Security in Richmond, Virginia. Prior to this position, Lisa was the system Chief of Police and Public Safety for Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va. Before moving to the Virginia area, Lisa served as the Campus Police and Public Safety Chief for WakeMed Health and Hospitals in Raleigh, N.C., for more than 18 years. She also served as the Director of Protective Services at Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, N.C., for 5 years. She began her law enforcement career with the City of Raleigh Police Department. Her professional experience includes administrative responsibility for: university and hospital campus police and environment of care safety programs, emergency communications centers, local and regional disaster and incident command planning, transportation services, food and nutrition services, and data processing. She is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and a Certified Healthcare Protection Administrator (CHPA). In addition to her role with IAHSS, she serves on the ASIS International Healthcare Council.