The recent New York Times article, “When the Hospital Fires the Bullet”, certainly brought forward a dramatic scenario in a hospital, in which 26-year-old Alan Pean was shot by a hospital security guard. Unfortunately, anyone unfamiliar with healthcare and the healthcare security environment might mistakenly think this happens on a daily basis. Not so, this incident and others like it are actually rare and extreme circumstances.
In fact, as indicated in the 2015 IHSSF Healthcare Crime Survey, the vast majority of assaults (79% of all aggravated assaults in US hospitals; 90% of all assaults in US hospitals) that occur in hospitals are Type 2 Assaults, which means that the violence is being directed at hospital employees by people for whom the hospital provides services, for example, patient or visitor attacks on staff.
Yes, there are times when bad things do happen, as the challenges brought to hospitals in terms of acute care and personal behavior can be amplified due to the stress of medical or behavioral illness and injury. However, the vast majority of encounters with hospital staff are peaceful, helpful and supportive.
Healthcare organizations and their security and safety teams work with all the stakeholders in the healthcare community to:
- Recruit and select the best individuals to work within and outside the healthcare community
- Identify the risks in the healthcare community through a collaborative and open approach
- Develop plans and procedures to address unexpected situations that threaten the safety and security of patients, guests and staff – and the life saving mission of the healthcare organization
- Create training and education programs to support the healthcare staff so they can identify potential safety and security threats, including workplace violence
Lastly, we never want to minimize any interaction with the healthcare security and safety team (or any hospital employee). The care and well-being of hospital staff is equally as important as that of the patients.
Hospitals can be dangerous places. But, healthcare organizations can continue to leverage the resources and experience of the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS) and the IAHSS Foundation—with their many resources and training programs—to continually work on reducing security incidents and improving their support of the life-saving mission of the healthcare community.