How to Keep Patient Watches from Eroding Your Hospital Public Safety Department

Assistants could help ease the workload of security officers monitoring behavioral health, violent or intoxicated patients.

Take this data and use it as part of your justification for looking at alternatives to using security officers as patient observers. You may want to start with ED leadership for this conversation depending on your current relationship with this group. Alternatively, start with your boss and loop in clinical leadership. Your goal is to educate these leaders on what impacts patient watches are having on your program. Don’t assume they know the full extent of the issue.

Next, start thinking about this problem in terms of business objectives. What is one of the goals of your emergency department? Throughput, right? How can you get a behavioral health patient placed in a facility if they are currently restrained, just assaulted your staff or if they have been freshly medicated? That’s going to be very tough.

But, what if this patient is being watched by a PSA with a mental health background and/or educational background? Is it possible that there could be better outcomes in terms of calming patients through more clinically competent care? I know of one hospital that implemented a PSA program and saw their restraints drop by 25% over the first six months. Not every hospital is the same, of course, but how’s that for a potential selling point? 

Sounds Good, But What’s The Cost?
A likely roadblock you’ll face in implementing a PSA program is the budget. You’ll get pushback that the program will cost too much. Again, this is where data comes into play. Use your data to show the increasing demand for patient observations in the ED. This is not a problem that’s going to get better and that needs to be accounted for in future budget planning.

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A PSA can likely be hired for around the starting rate of a patient care assistant or technician (tech) with a few more dollars for the higher qualifications/expectations. Perhaps the program can be started with per-d
iems, or some of the sitter pool employees can be cross-trained. The key is to get your foot in the door and keep the pressure on for change. The PSA program, if well executed, will likely sell itself after implementation.

Time for Action!
We as security leaders need to take the first step in addressing this problem. Don’t wait for someone else to take the lead or for a sentinel event or even a near miss to drive your actions. This is a problem that is not going away and that is slowly eating away at the foundation of our security programs and our security staff.

Dave Corbin is the director of public safety, parking, facilities and engineering at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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