Security Training for COVID Response
There is no doubt that hospital security officers are on the front line of the COVID crisis in healthcare. In fact there have been several hospital security officers that have succumbed to the virus. How did that happen is a question without an answer at this point, but we know that healthcare security officers play a vital role in the emergency department.
Security Officers on the Front-line of Healthcare
Often times the security officer is the first one to have contact with someone entering a hospital, especially at night. At this point in the global pandemic we would certainly hope that all hospital security officers have received the proper training regarding Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), but for the majority of medium to small heath systems security officers had received little or no training prior to 2020.
When you take into consideration that those same heath systems rely on their security officers to assist with Decon duties, crowd control, responding to aggressive incidents throughout the hospital and often outside the hospital, all healthcare systems should have been looking hard at the training that the officers received.
The use of security officers in the Decon area is somewhat of a topic for an in-depth discussion at a later time. However, the thing is we know that security officer staffing is minimal at many hospitals, and often used as a labor pool for other departments.
Hospital Security Officers Duties
If you have read elsewhere in our blog you know that there is an issue with hospitals using security officers for things such as wheelchair round-ups, transporters, sitters, couriers, car wash attendants, mass casualty decontamination duties, and delivery services just to name a few tasks that are not generally a security officers job.
Staffing a Decon area with security officers can mean that your organization will go without security staff to respond to a number of security incidents that may occur. For example, if a 250-bed hospital had security officers on staff there would likely be two officers working at any given time. So, let’s say that the hospital command center instructs both officers to suit up (PPE) and work in the Decon area during a mass casualty incident, if they do so who will respond to security calls? I have had administrators tell me that they would call the police, or even have maintenance staff respond. Another stated that if it was an emergency they would have the security officers go through Decon and then respond to the emergency. Really? Try that during your next drill to see just how well that will work.
Another common non-traditional security task that is slowly becoming old school is where security officers are responsible for transporting the remains a deceased patient to the morgue, either from the ER or from the patient care units. During COVID that can be a real challenge, because the security officers will likely be in full PPE gear and not able to leave the remains unattended for any reason. So, if there is an emergency security cannot respond.
Healthcare Security Officer Training
Over the last several years training programs for hospital security officers has improved. The International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS) has also improved and updated their training programs, and they provide very valuable training sessions through webinars and online learning. Yet, I am still in disbelief on the number of healthcare systems that do not use the resources of the only professional healthcare security association out there.
That being said, there are still hospital administrators and even security directors asking me for healthcare security best practices. Of course, I will always direct them to IAHSS because I know of the quality resources that IAHSS has to offer and the healthcare security professionals that are members, and how they enjoy helping others learn from their mistakes.
The training of security officers is essential in today’s litigious world in which we live and work. When your organization becomes a party to a civil lawsuit, that training, or lack thereof, will become one of those focal points for the Plaintiff’s attorney.
The training curriculum, trainers’ qualifications, and records will all be scrutinized so be prepared. It is likely that the Plaintiff’s law firm will retain the services of a well trained and educated security expert who will probably understand healthcare security better than most professionals, so prepare for that.
Be careful if someone in your organization, or a third party, offers to develop a training program for your officers. The questions you should be asking include, but are not limited to the following:
- Has the training been through a legal review?
- Has the training been certified by any government entities, such as state licensing boards?
- What are the trainer’s qualifications to train others? Review this one carefully, because you are essentially staking your liability on what they tell you, so verify everything.
Do your due diligence, regardless of how big the company is that is offering to develop your training program.
In these difficult times due to COVID please be sure to provide the proper training and do so ongoing for your security staff. They are often asked to assist with patients in numerous ways, or to screen people coming into your facilities, so give them the training, confidence, and proper PPE to do that job safely.