Creativity, Problem Solving Help Barnes-Jewish Hospital Director Stand Out

Barnes-Jewish Hospital Director of Public Safety has earned the title of Campus Safety’s Hospital Director of the Year.

Margaret Brine is a problem solver. If anything characterizes her 32 years of employment at Barnes-Jewish Hospital (BJH), it’s her ability to see a problem and create a solution, even if no precedent for such a thing exists. Brine is now the director of public safety for the St. Louis, Mo.-based hospital, a position she has held for the last 16 years. But, even before that, she was leading groundbreaking initiatives that continue to improve hospital operations today.

Brine has had a long and varied career at BJH that saw her rise from a shuttle bus driver, to the hospital’s first female security officer, to parking manager and eventually to director of public safety. She has tackled the problems offered by each new position with the same determination and ingenuity that has defined her life and career. Brine’s journey in healthcare began after her youngest son, Michael, was diagnosed with an endocrine disease. She quit her job as a waitress and took a position as a shuttle bus driver at what was then known as Barnes Hospital. Brine’s intention was to find the right doctor to help her son. As a shuttle driver, she got to know the hospital employees and ultimately discovered the doctor who would successfully treat her son.

It’s easy to think Brine may have gotten the better end of this deal, but colleagues would disagree.

“What Barnes-Jewish Hospital got out of this deal was a loyal, long-tenured employee who lives every day to keep Barnes-Jewish Hospital and its patients, visitors and staff safe,” says Michael Lauer, operations manager for BJH’s department of public safety.

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Brine has always been an advocate for her employees and despite tight budgets at times, has found a way to get those employees the resources they need to excel on the job. From creating firearms training, to promoting nonviolent crisis intervention certification, to implementing the latest technologies to increase hospital efficiency, Brine looks for a way to get the job done better. Because of her continued efforts, Brine was named Campus Safety Director of the Year.

An Advocate for Training

In 1982, when Brine first donned the uniform of a security officer, she was one of two officers on the night shift charged with securing the hospital. BJH is Level I trauma center, so it goes without saying that this was no small task. Brine had limited firearms training and no background in public safety. In fact, in the early 1980s, the hospital’s security staff was only required to shoot a short course to qualify as a watchman and according to Brine, once hired, security officers really only qualified with their firearms twice a year.

“That was scary to me,” says Brine. She was a single mother of three young children and her new position as a security officer paid more than her job as a shuttle driver. “I needed the money, but I was thinking I really don’t know much about handguns.”

Once in a leadership position, Brine pushed for regular firearms training for security staff and spent a great deal of time searching for the right experts to help her put together a training course. Today, Brine has her own qualified firearms instructors and has arranged for employees to have a membership at an indoor shooting range paid for by BJH, if they so choose.

New Solutions Solve Old Problems

In the early days of Brine’s public safety career, women in uniform were few and far between. Men dominated the field and almost everyone in security was an ex-law enforcement officer, or a big, burly man capable of intimidating potential offenders into compliance. Brine was an anomaly.

“I’m not a very big person,” she explains. “I couldn’t threaten someone and say, ‘You better do this or else.'”

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Short of using her weapon, Brine had very few tools to deal with an unruly patient or visitor, and she couldn’t rely on her size or previous training like many of her male coworkers. So Brine took a different approach. Drawing on her brief stint as a teacher, she used the techniques she learned during nonviolent crisis intervention training. These courses show class participants how to defuse potentially dangerous situations as early as possible so as not to escalate the problem. It’s something teachers use to respond to anxious, upset or possibly violent students.

Brine’s peers felt she spent “too much time talking,” she says, but it was clear her method for dealing with upset individuals was working as she was able to resolve potentially serious situations with no harm to herself or the person in question.

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