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When I first started working in health-care security in 1985, it was a very different world.
Security technology was bare-bones basic. CCTV systems were connected to time-lapse VCRs, card access systems were rudimentary. There were no computers, video analytics didn’t exist, there were no cell phones and nightly patrols were conducted with an old Detex Watch-tour clock.
A lot has changed over the past decades. Our laws have changed, our technology has changed, our demographics have changed, our funding has changed and the public’s expectations have changed. What has not really changed are the training requirements for most security guards in hospitals across Canada.
Training and licensing requirements vary from province to province across our country. At the lowest end of the spectrum is Newfoundland where security guards do not require any training, testing or are even required to have a licence.
Other eastern provinces are not much better. Licences are necessary in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, but mandatory training or testing is not required.
In many hospitals, health-care security officers are the first and last people the public may encounter in your facility. They are your public ambassadors, and are often your fire department, police department, customer service department, hazardous response team, dispute and resolution mediators, and a long list of other duties.
The provincially mandated minimum standards do not properly educate or prepare security staff to work in a health-care facility. With all of the duties and responsibilities that are given to them, it is incumbent upon the facility to ensure that its staff are properly trained to handle these often complex and challenging responsibilities.
The International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) is the only organization that provides a certification program designed specifically for health-care security personnel. The IAHSS certification is the best means to ensure that your staff are properly trained to understand and implement the important functions within your health-care facility on both a daily basis and when the unexpected occurs.
Recently, a report on violence in health care from the province of Nova Scotia stated:
A good security program may result in fewer injuries to staff, patients, and visitors. It helps staff feel supported and results in fewer lost-time incidents. Security can have a positive impact on patient safety, including the ability to follow a designated care plan. For this reason, security personnel should be considered part of the care team.
To ensure high quality security personnel, the length and content of security training programs should meet the standards set out by the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS).
Security personnel must be trained before they work in a health-care setting. They should be offered ongoing training that is delivered by qualified personnel.
The job of a security guard in a hospital has changed over the years. Gone are the days of night watchmen.
Health-care facilities that rely on only the most basic of security guard training are opening themselves up to possible civil or criminal litigation for negligence or for failing to provide adequate security.
Security staff should have the best possible training, not just the minimum required training. A facility can reduce its risk by ensuring that all security staff have received adequate training.
Martin Green is the Manager, Security, Telecommunications & Emergency Preparedness at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto and immediate past president of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS). Green presented at Canadian Security’s Focus On Health Care Security seminar last December.
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