Healthcare Facilities Can be Dangerous: Creating a Safe and Secure Environment

By Joseph Pangaro CPM, CSO

When we look at the increasing incidents of violence in our country, we naturally look at our schools and businesses. Each has suffered numerous active shooter attacks and assaults on employees over the years, but there are other locations where staff, customers, and visitors are assaulted and killed that we don’t immediately think of like our healthcare facilities.

Hospitals have seen a steady rise in the number of assaults on doctors, nurses, patients, and other staff members over the last few years. When looking at the statistics on assault, the information is shocking.

In an article from September 2023, we see these facts: Healthcare workers are five times as likely to experience workplace violence as other workers, according to government data. In a National Nurses United survey in 2022, 40 percent of hospital nurses said they’d seen an increase in violent incidents.”

In another study, the number of nurses who report this increase in physical violence is growing with over 650,000 injuries reported. My research with healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals confirms this reality. The victims of this increased violence are not just the workers in these facilities, they also include patients and visitors in our hospitals. The number of physical and verbal assaults has increased markedly since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This reality seems to match other increases in negative actions such as suicide across all age groups, and active shooter/workplace violence attacks in other industries.

The question then has to be asked, what are healthcare facilities doing to prevent these violent incidents? When I spoke to nurses and doctors, they told me that very little is being done in most healthcare facilities. There is a feeling that ownership or management doesn’t want to see the rising danger, or they don’t care about it. I find it hard to believe that any employer doesn’t care about workplace violence, especially in an age when these incidents are out in the open for all to see and it seems to be painfully clear to the people who work in these facilities.

So, what is it then that allows this security gap to exist and endanger the men, women, patients, and visitors who work in our healthcare facilities? There appear to be numerous reasons cited for this security gap. The first is a perception problem. Hospitals, like schools for our kids, are places that should be welcoming and supportive, not stern security-driven places. While it is true that a hospital is a place for healing and recovery, it must also be a safe and secure place for staff, patients, and visitors. Creating an obvious security wall can dilute the appearance and perception of warm and welcoming.

Another reason often cited is the cost associated with creating a more secure environment. Security officers, security equipment, and updated protocols can take valuable resources away from the main mission of a healthcare facility.

The open environment of a hospital is also hard to control; there are usually multiple entryways, and units that need their access points. The need for the public to come into the facility 24 hours a day to get needed healthcare, or to visit someone in the facility, contributes to the lower level of security. These things add to the lack of a secure environment in any healthcare facility.

To help our healthcare teams, let’s look at some of the vital areas of security to focus on. To make a secure environment we must have:

  1. Proper policies and practices for everyone who works in the facility.
  2. Updated “Best Practices Training” for staff to be able to identify potential danger and react to it properly, including “De-Escalation Training” for every staff member.
  3. Quality cameras in sufficient numbers to see all areas of the facility to identify potential problems as they develop so security can intervene, and a dedicated staff member to monitor the cameras.
  4. A properly staffed and trained security department with quality leadership and officers.
  5. Emergency notification systems so that any staff member can alert the entire facility to danger or call for help.
  6. Communication and interaction between staff, security, and local law enforcement including proper drills to be prepared to respond to violence.
  7. Communication between management and the staff to understand security trends so a solid plan to mitigate danger can be established.

 

These simple things do cost money, but they will increase the security profile of any facility and enhance everyone’s safety. To better see this cost-to-benefit ratio, let us imagine a violent incident taking place in your healthcare facility and a staff member or patient being injured or killed due to a lack of proper and expected level of security. The cost to the organization will dwarf the cost invested to update and improve security. We cannot live in a world where our staff members, patients, and visitors are in danger – those days are gone. It is the responsibility of every organization to protect the people who use their facility to the best possible level.

The final thing to consider is where you can get the quality equipment, training, and technology needed to help make your healthcare facility safer. There are thousands of outlets for these things, and who you choose to help you is just as important as your updates. I have interacted with hundreds of companies you can choose from and have vetted most of them, giving me great insight into this industry.

Don’t guess. Reach out to me. I can help you!

Reach out today: JPangaro@IntegraServices.com