Is Your Training Program Up to Par?

Published: June 8, 2009

More than one in five health-care security executives say they are somewhat unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with the amount of training their public safety officers receive, according to Campus Safety magazine’s Healthcare Security Survey.

The results of the study, which will appear in the publication’s July/August issue, also indicate that, although 70 percent of hospital security professionals are happy or very happy with their organization’s level of training, a significant segment believe they should be doing more to prepare their public safety employees.

Economic Hard Times Hit Security Departments
The economic downturn is one reason healthcare security executives are having difficulty providing enough training to their officers, says Bryan Warren, corporate security director of the Carolinas Health System.

“Education and training are the first things to be cut when the economy goes down,” he says. “A lot of people don’t consider it a crucial part of their security force. It’s an easy place to chop because, if [training] is done properly, it’s expensive.”

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Most hospitals must pay their security officers overtime for training, which can bulk up budgets. Each year, an officer could accrue 80 hours or more of overtime, which adds up quickly, especially in large departments, Warren says.

A lack of nationwide standards is another factor that keeps hospitals from providing adequate training to their officers. Some states have rather strict requirements, while others have no standards whatsoever.

Hospitals that don’t adequately train their security officers put campus protection in jeopardy and foster poor officer morale, according to Joe Bellino, director of safety, security and emergency management of Hanover Hospital in Hanover, Pa.

“In this industry, we set up people for failure,” he says. “A lot of times, what I’ve seen on the contract side and proprietary side is that we put an officer out there, give them some basic training, and when they make a mistake, chastise them. I see that as a failure on my part as a director. I should never put anyone out on the floor unless they are properly trained.”

At the bare minimum, hospital security officers should receive instruction on non-violent crisis intervention, healthcare regulation compliance, CPR and Hazmat, Warren and Bellino say. Departments using special tools such as stun guns, handcuffs or pepper spray should provide training specific to those tools, as well as additional psychological testing and background checks to verify officers will use the weapons properly.

Hospitals also need an effective way of measuring officer competency, Bellino says. “We have a job description that clearly spells out what our officers do and a competency assessment that supports it [that] talks about all of the learning objectives and what officers should know.”

In-House Training Programs Lack Specifics
Sometimes, it’s not just the amount of training that is lacking, but also the necessary content. Oftentimes, hospitals produce training protocol and don’t give employees specific enough instructions for handling threats, according to consultant William Nesbitt, president of Security Management Services Intl.

As an example, hospitals don’t always provide adequate instruction to their staff about recognizing suspicious people, according to Nesbitt, who routinely testifies in cases as a safety expert and provides training to organizations. Instead of training staff to ask, “Can I help you,” Nesbit advises they ask a non-directive question such as, “What’s the name of the patient you’re visiting?”

He also recommends hospitals put training protocols in writing, especially when they pertain to security camera placement, monitoring stations and deployment of armed personnel. Even when the training is in writing, articles in employee newsletters, visits from local police, company announcements and other consistent reminders are needed. Managers need to provide training that’s specific to the site, as well as broad-based instruction, Nesbitt says.

“It’s more that they don’t follow the protocol,” Nesbitt says, when asked why training could be considered inadequate. “We tell people what to do, but be don’t always tell them how to do it.”

Healthcare Security Survey Highlights:

  • 15 percent of healthcare security executives are somewhat unsatisfied with the amount of training provided to their security officers
  • 7 percent are very unsatisfied
  • 9 percent are neither satisfied nor unsatisfied with the level of officer training
  • 89 percent say their officers receive in-house training
  • 54 percent say their officers receive training from a vendor

For more information, view the Annual Competency Assessment Security Officer Job Form or the On the Job Training Checklist.

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Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
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Strategy & Planning Series