Budget Reductions vs Loss of Security Training
Over the last several years there seems to be a lot of budgeting pressures placed on healthcare facilities, and as a result many service lines have seen their budgets either frozen or reduced in an effort to ensure fiscal responsibility throughout the healthcare organization.
Security Budget Reductions
One of those departments, security, which in some cases has not always been considered part of the patient care team in some organizations, has experienced budget cuts. In many cases the reductions in budgets have resulted in reduced staffing levels, either by not filling vacancies as they arise or by forced reduction through layoffs.
Another means in which to reduce budgets is to look closely at other expenditures such as equipment, overtime and training budget lines, and unless your department has an extensive array of security technology your budget line for such may likely already be marginal at best.
As we all know staffing dollars, those monies spent on man-hours, account for the majority of your budget expenses. Although we have seen a steady rise in violence in healthcare over the years, the reality is that healthcare organizations have to respond to the ever-shrinking reimbursement dollars and non-patient care departments are likely to take the first and largest hits when budgets are affected.
Healthcare Fiscal Management
Many times when budget cuts are under consideration administrators seem to be looking first at non-patient care services, such as security. Now many could argue that security is part of the patient care team, however the fact is that not all hospital administrators see it that way.
In some cases we may give them cause to believe that because maybe we are not ensuring that our security program’s effectiveness is known to our administrative teams. Regardless of the reasons why security services may not be considered part of the patient care team, we must continue to ensure that we are bringing value to our organization, and that we insist on security training for both security staff as well as all other hospital staff.
Security Training vs. Security Culture
Security training is a critical part of the foundation of any organization’s security program, and therefore its security culture. This is regardless of whether we are talking about the security staff’s training or that of the organization’s other staff members. Both are important parts of the security culture and if one is absent or underutilized an organization’s risks and liability may be elevated.
In the world in which we live and work in if your organization is not providing some type of security training to staff you may find that during an emergency your staff may react in a variety of ways. Absent any consistent training or written instruction that requires staff to respond in an approved manner to a security incident the actual results of their responses cannot be foreseen. In other words, if employees do not know what they are supposed to do, you as a security professional cannot anticipate with any degree of confidence how they will react or respond. Thus there are general risks your organization faces as a result of insufficient training.
The risks can be reduced provided there is a trained security presence working at all times, and their numbers are sufficient to address all security incidents independently. However, the reality is that not all organizations have a trained security staff on duty.
In addition to that, we as security professionals often view all company employees as an extension of the security department regardless of the number of officers we might have on staff. Basically we often rely on all employees to be our eyes and ears because we as security professionals know we cannot be in all places at all times.
Security Awareness Training
Most large businesses provide security awareness training to all new hires at orientation, and some businesses take it even further by providing annual refresher training of all staff. However, like many other parts of the corporate world the emphasis on security training may not be uniform across the board, and in some cases it is dependent on budgets or the corporate culture. A larger number of businesses will likely have security information of some type included within their “Employee Handbooks” if they provide one, yet there is no means or process in place to ensure that staff actually reads any of that information, and in many cases staff is not evaluated for proficiency with regard to the information.
A successful security program, whether or not you have a security department, must have the commitment of all staff and other users such as visitors, patients, tenants, vendors, contractors, students, faculty, and so on depending on your type of facility. A security awareness program is essential and should become a fundamental element of every employer’s daily operation and business model. Employees, management, and other personnel that either work or live onsite need to become aware of their roles and responsibilities with regard to security.
Implementing a security awareness program is an important step in reducing liability concerns and identifying security issues at the earliest possible stages, giving you time to make adjustments as a mitigation strategy. So when it comes to assessing the security training of an organization, there are numerous things to consider and evaluate.
Security Training Budget
As mentioned early on in this article training budgets, including travel to trade conferences, have been cut in many cases and in some organizations those budget lines have been eliminated. Does this mean that we can just forgo ongoing training? The short answer should be no, but the reality is that that does happen.
Let’s assume that your training budget has been reduced substantially, and yet you still need to provide training for your security officers. So how can you provide such training with little or no budget dollars? Well at this point you need to look at all available resources both within and outside your organization.
Internally you should look at departments such as Risk Management, Human Resources, Legal, Compliance, and Safety to mention a few options. Each of these departments can provide training programs and in many cases do so with little or no costs to your department.
When looking externally look to the local police and fire departments. For example, your local police can provide training on gang violence, workplace violence prevention, officer safety, defensive tactics, and so on. Your fire department can provide fire suppression training using fire extinguishers and may be able to provide basic training regarding entering confined spaces, of which many large medical centers have at least a few spaces that would meet this definition. Again, in most cases there may be no cost for this training with the exception of the fire extinguishers used, which could be equipment from your facility.
One of the largest expenses for training is staff’s payroll to attend the training. However, with a little effort and strategic planning you can reduce the budget for such and possibly eliminate overtime altogether.
Faced with little or no budget allocations for training some medical center security managers have been tasked with training staff without utilizing overtime. Now when you are talking about an operation that is 24/7, and you are not allowed to utilize overtime to get staff trained, you really have to get creative.
Creativity comes with making schedule adjustments for security officers, which will include changing either days off or shifts, or a combination of both. You will also need to plan for a few different training sessions in order to get all staff through the training. Now you may be thinking that it is impossible to train your officers without using overtime, but it can be done with planning and coordination.
Value Added Security
As we in healthcare security compete for the shrinking budget dollars we need to ensure that our program’s value is apparent throughout the organization. On more than one occasion I have heard healthcare executives state that there are very few security concerns within their organization. However, when talking to the security staff is becomes clear that that is not the case. The difference in the two viewpoints is that security deals with security incidents daily, yet no one is keeping the senior team informed and therefore they are not aware of the value of the security program.
There are many ways in which to ensure that the value of the security department is well known and appreciated throughout the organization and it is incumbent on security management to ensure that that is the case.
A few ways to bring value to your security program is to provide security awareness training for staff and volunteers of your organization. In many cases you are probably doing some security awareness training to all staff in new employee orientation, and if you are lucky you are providing them annual training other than the standard online training that many healthcare organizations have switched to in order to save money.
One option is to look at short training sessions during meal breaks. In some organizations they refer to these as Brown Bag training sessions. Brown-Bag training sessions or seminars are generally speaking a training or information event during a meal break. The term “brown bag” often refers to the sack lunch meals that are either brought by the attendees or provided by the employer. Brown-Bag training seminars will normally run for 30-60 minutes and provide information to attendees in a strictly voluntary and informal setting, and each session is often followed by a discussion of the topic along with a question and answer session.
Another option is to provide information sessions and security training to community members and even employees during the evening hours. One medical center did this very successfully and as a result they found that staff would remain after work to hear the speakers on their own time. In addition to that, members of the community would show up in large numbers to hear the speakers and find out how they could improve their personal security. This type of training cost the medical center nothing, and yet the medical center received excellent feedback from both the public and staff.
Let’s face it, many of your departments are facing budget cuts now or have faced budget cuts in the past. When it happens you may be responding by telling your administrator that the security services are needed and should not be cut or eliminated because there is an ongoing risk associated with workplace violence or other security issues. The fact of the matter is if you are having those conversations now, where you are trying to justify your department’s budget, it may be too late.
Basically, the administrative team has made the decision to make cuts because they felt it could be done with little or no impact on the organization. So why did they come to that conclusion? Each case may be different but in several of the cases that I have reviewed it was because they were not aware of the value that security brought to the organization overall.
Over the last 10+ years many healthcare security budgets have been reduced, and in some cases entire departments have been eliminated. Many of the healthcare security management professionals that I have spoken to about this have agreed that the often stated reason given to them was that reimbursement dollars are down and cuts need to be made to non-patient care departments.
When pressed further they also agreed that they could have done a better job of demonstrating the value of their program to the organization. A few even stated that they thought that the organization knew all of the good things that the security department was doing, but in the end they realized that that was not the case.
The end result is it all comes down to how well you manage your program and how to ensure that the value that your security department is bringing to the organization is well known. When and if the time comes to make budget cuts, and if it means reducing budget lines such as training, you have to look at ways to do so and yet still keep the training at the highest level possible. Looking internally and externally for potential costs savings is one way to keep your training program alive and well post budget cuts.
Finally, we all know that staffing costs are often our largest expense when it comes to training, so get creative with your scheduling of security officers so that you can reduce or eliminate a large portion of overtime dollars spent on training. This may be an inconvenience for some if their days off are changed for one pay period, or if they are required to change shifts for a couple of days, but in the end it may be enough to keep your security program alive and well even if your budgets are reduced.