A Changing Profile
COVID-19 has heightened day-to-day risks
- By Andy Bedlack
- Apr 01, 2021
Healthcare facilities were already a complex security
environment due to the number of moving
pieces and literal life or death situations faced
daily. However, while every industry has encountered
unique challenges due to the pandemic,
this is perhaps truest in healthcare, where day-to-day risks have
only been heightened by the onset of COVID-19 and now the
VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
For example, this past summer the International Committee of
the Red Cross issued a statement regarding increased incidents of
violence and harassment taking place against health-care workers,
patients and medical infrastructure. This comes on the back
of a 2019 study reporting 75% of nearly 25,000 workplace assaults
occurred in healthcare settings.
Given these challenges, it’s no surprise that recruiting and
training security officers for a role in a healthcare setting necessitates
considerable complexity. While guarding in any environment
takes a certain skill set and training, guarding in a healthcare
environment is highly complicated and layered. Hospitals
are emotionally charged environments, creating a landscape that
must be navigated effectively by well trained and highly capable
The role of a healthcare security officer is also significantly
more interactive than in other settings, as they directly engage
with patients, families, visitors and staff. Hospital security offi-
cers are not only the first impression patients or visitors have of
the organization when they enter the facility, but they are also the
first to assist the clinical staff in protecting patients from harming
themselves, visitors or staff. It is also a security officer’s responsibility
to understand and comply with all regulations and to
enforce hospital policy and procedure.
As hospitals reach maximum capacity due to the number of
COVID-19 patients, risk factors are increased. As a result, hospital
security needs to be managed with less intrusive and more
specialized measures that minimize stress to patients, visitors
and healthcare workers. Security companies must possess a strategic
and deep understanding of the healthcare environment to
ensure they are hiring the right people and providing the necessary
training for success, especially at a time when many healthcare
institutions are facing pandemic-related financial stress.
HIRING THE RIGHT PEOPLE
In light of these risks and challenges, recruiting for a healthcare role
involves considerations beyond that of a traditional commercial security
job. To find talent with the right mix of experience, skills, and
temperament necessitates that direct compensation and additional
benefits equate to the dangers and difficulties personnel would be
expected to handle on a daily basis. A healthcare security officer often
provides the first impression to patients or visitors. Screening for
professionalism, a sense of responsibility, positive attitude and attention
to detail, empathy and strong communications skills is vital.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, new recruiting challenges have
also emerged for healthcare roles. Recruiters must consider a candidate’s
willingness to protect others and themselves when it comes
to infection protocols and proper PPE usage. Although required
immunizations and vaccinations are not new challenges for credentialing
healthcare security officers, COVID-19 has brought the new
realities of candidate trust, opinions on vaccine safety and legal
considerations related to what employers can and cannot require.
Furthermore, these positions now have the added obstacle of
considering a candidate’s potential health risk factors. Someone
who may have been a perfect fit for the role but suffers from an
underlying condition that puts them at greater risk from COVID-
19, may no longer be an appropriate candidate.
While certain personality traits are inherent, security companies
must provide the necessary depth and breadth of training to ensure
staff are prepared, safe and successful in their new roles.
This means specialized, augmented training specifically tailored
to helping staff manage high-risk situations.
Instructional content should include pre-assignment training,
as well as continual education on critical topics relating to patient
and officer safety, compliance and risks unique to the healthcare
Core universal subjects include security operations, customer
service methodology and culture, prevention, mitigation, response,
recovery and protection techniques, and verbal de-escalation
Industry-specific modules include explanations of the healthcare
environment, nuances of differing care and departmental
challenges, the patient and employee experience, accreditation standards
and regulations specific to the industry, and patient rights.
CALIBRATED AND REFINED TRAINING
Over the last year, healthcare organizations have found themselves
responding to new challenges, whether it be patient influx,
operational shutdown, or a major workforce protection policy
decision. Because of this, security companies must be able to
adjust on the fly, consistently updating trainings about new policies
and procedures. This, coupled with an increased demand for
security staff in healthcare, has led to changes in training delivery
methods along with content.
The days of in-person pre-assignment training are insufficient
for today’s healthcare environment. Security companies must
focus on methods of delivery, concise communications and processes,
limitations of scope and client expectations.
The clearest option is virtual training, which allows for consistent
delivery across multiple locations. When virtually training staff,
content organization is important. Ideally, topics should be presented
to emphasize the most critical curriculum first. Once pre-assignment
curriculum is completed and officers are stationed within a
facility, additional topics can be delivered in an automated manner
within a fixed schedule to ensure compliance initiatives identified in
accreditation and healthcare survey findings are reinforced.
Virtual training also allows for just-in-time modules, which
has been especially timely during the pandemic. For example,
these can be used to address regulatory enhancements, civil unrest
incident response, or the latest CDC COVID-19 recommendations.
It is also recommended a library of electronic training
programs is maintained to address any issues and allow continual
review by employees.
It is also important for security companies to gauge and measure
the success of training programs. One way to do this is with
automated testing that shows students’ progress and real-time
results. By analyzing this information, classes can be modified
to emphasize areas in which results are falling short of pre-determined
standards. This allows for continuous improvement to
training programs, student comprehension and job performance.
While the security industry does not have required national
training or licensing standards, a top tier security company will
provide significant hours of pre-assignment training rather than
regressing to state minimums.
To attract the right candidates to the role, these positions also
require a greater investment to match the increased risk and advanced
skill set of the preferred applicants with more competitive
pay. It is necessary to explore creative approaches to allow the
hospital to reinvest savings from synergies found in peripheral
services to invest in the most important element of maintaining
the safety of the campus - the security officer.
To prepare officers, it is critical security companies identify
people with the right base-level characteristics and train them
extensively and effectively. When officers receive the proper training,
retention, recruitment efforts and officer performance all
improve. This is key as healthcare customers
can count on a more educated and competent
security force to handle delicate and complex
This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Security Today.