Violence Against Hospital Security Officers Highlights Need for Retention Strategy Revisions
Hospitals must regularly revisit their recruitment and retention strategies to best protect and keep their security employees.
Several hospital security officers sustained injuries in recent weeks after being attacked by both patients and non-patients, reiterating the need for hospitals to frequently revamp their recruitment and retention practices as healthcare employees continue to leave the industry at an alarming rate.
In Milwaukee, 18-year-old Edgar Joel Padilla was charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide after he reportedly stabbed a security officer at Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital on Jan. 29. According to a criminal complaint, the security officer was stabbed in his head and upper back after he was sent to deal with a “trouble subject” complaint. The officer located Padilla and said he could not loiter on the grounds and asked him to leave. Padilla left but returned about an hour later and threatened to “stab and kill” the security officer, who then told him to go to the waiting room if he wanted medical attention. The officer used the restroom and Padilla stabbed him from behind. The officer was able to wrestle Padilla out of the restroom where he was stabbed again.
When Milwaukee police responded, they saw the teen pointing a knife at several security officers. Padilla then reportedly dropped the knife when one of the officers announced himself as police with his firearm drawn. When interviewed by police, Padilla said that he was homeless and was trying to sleep in the hospital parking structure when the injured officer woke him up and “upset” him. He is being held on a $50,000 bond.
A Pennsylvania man is also facing charges after he allegedly struck a security officer in the head, causing a concussion. Police responded to Chambersburg Hospital Behavioral Health Unit on Jan. 30 for a reported assault. The officer was assaulted when he and several other security officers were at the hospital for a mental health hearing for another patient, Tri-State Alert reports. The alleged assailant, Justin Mitchell Miller, exited his room and confronted the security officer for unknown reasons. As the officer tried to diffuse the situation, Miller allegedly punched the officer in the back of the head, sending the officer to the ground. Miller has been charged with felony aggravated assault against designated individuals. He is free on an unsecured bail of $35,000.
On Feb. 5, a security officer at Adena Regional Medical Center in Chillicothe, Ohio, was also injured by a patient. The teen was reportedly admitted to the ER for suicidal ideation and was accompanied by a parent and boyfriend, according to the Scioto Valley Guardian. The boyfriend allegedly persuaded the patient to leave the ER, leading to intervention by security and nursing staff. A physical altercation ensued outside the ER between the boyfriend, security personnel, and the teen’s father. One of the security officers reportedly sustained back and neck injuries during the incident. The teen’s parents claim the hospital held their daughter despite repeated requests to have her released. Assault charges are pending against the boyfriend and the father, according to the Ross County Sheriff’s Office.
Two days later, an Illinois woman was arrested for allegedly punching a security officer in the mouth at Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb, Fox 39 reports. According to the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office, Priscilla Withrow, 32, was arrested and charged with aggravated battery. She was given a notice to appear in court at a later date and released. Authorities have not said what led up to the altercation.
In Belton, Texas, a woman was arrested last weekend for allegedly assaulting a nurse and a security officer on Nov. 15, reports KWTX. According to an arrest warrant, Victoria Ann Galindo was under an emergency order of detention at Baylor Scott & White Temple Hospital when she punched the nurse in the shoulder and the security officer in the face. Galindo was being “verbally aggressive” to staff and threatened to hit anyone who touched her. Galindo has been charged with assault on a security officer and assault on hospital personnel on hospital property. She is being held on bonds totaling $50,000.
Violence Impacting Hospital Security Officer Retention
In 2023, simple assaults against healthcare workers increased from 17.7 incidents per 100 beds to 22 incidents, according to the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) Foundation’s 2023 Healthcare Crime Survey. From 2012 to 2019, the simple assault rate hovered around 10 incidents per 100 beds, but it has risen in each of the past three years and is now more than double that.
For the first time in its history, the same survey also asked participants how easy or difficult it has been to retain a full, qualified security staff. Of 189 responses, 74 said the process has been “difficult” while 48 said it has been “very difficult.”
This year’s survey findings reflected the decrease in overall healthcare worker retention, determining that hospitals averaged 9.5 full-time security employees per 100 beds. The result of the previous survey was 10.7 security personnel per 100 beds.
Healthcare workers account for approximately 50% of all victims of workplace violence, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. While 80% of workplace violence incidents in healthcare are committed by patients, hospitals have an obligation to provide services regardless. Jeff Hauk, director of public safety and police authority services for Michigan-based Memorial Healthcare, spoke with Campus Safety about various challenges that can lead to staff retention issues.
“Hospitals are microcosms of the communities they serve, meaning that whatever types of crime or criminal activity are occurring on the streets, they are also likely occurring in and around the healthcare organization,” he said. “Attractiveness, brand, and customer service are also important parts of the healthcare industry’s philosophy, so creating a comprehensive protective process for safely and efficiently identifying individuals entering a facility while not impending upon or delaying medical services or creating poor public perception through an intrusive process is extremely challenging.”
Hauk also noted many retention difficulties can be attributed to the fact that the security function in healthcare organizations generates no revenue and is considered a “cost center,” making resources hard to come by. He also shared various ways hospitals can both protect and retain their security employees. Here’s his advice.
Thomas Walton, Senior Vice President of Vertical Markets at Allied Universal, also recently shared with Campus Safety how artificial intelligence (AI) can aid in officer recruitment and the two best ways he believes hospitals can retain their top security officers.
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