Eric Sean Clay, VP of Security Services for Memorial Hermann Health System and President of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety explores how to improve workplace safety within a healthcare setting.
Workplace violence and specifically patient-generated violence, is one of the greatest threats to US healthcare today.
Throughout my career, I have witnessed the changing landscape of workplace violence, its escalating nature and its harmful impact on caregivers, access to quality healthcare, the associated costs and patient outcomes.
Healthcare systems face enormous pressure from rising patient demand and the difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff, which is, in part, caused and further exacerbated by workplace violence.
The impact of workplace violence cannot be overstated in building the business case for investment in prevention programs.
Workplace violence does not just impact the affected staff members – it disrupts caregiving and treatment, harms patient care and damages a hospital/healthcare system’s reputation.
In order to stem the tide, it will require industry collaboration and transformational change with cooperation occurring across healthcare systems, industry associations, politicians, accrediting bodies and technology companies.
The most effective strategies will include the better collection and use of data, the delivery of targeted training programs, the use of technology and the adoption of a community-based approach to hospital security.
Security teams will need to boost C-suite understanding of key issues while putting forward a solid business case for investment.
Data is vital to understanding and countering workplace violence, particularly patient-generated violence.
Historically, security departments have struggled to measure and analyze the relevant metrics then implement the corresponding interventions and staff training.
Healthcare systems will invest more in new security initiatives such as concealed weapons detection systems, cameras with analytics, body-worn cameras (BWC), mass communications systems, TASERs, wearable duress alarms and violence-deterrent signage.
Another effective way to counter workplace violence will be to build community and trust across the healthcare setting.
Today’s security officers are more capable, trained and better equipped than in years past.
So, we will see a shift from traditional security, policing and enforcement models in healthcare towards a new approach that prioritizes engagement, safety and efforts to integrate into the patient care team.
Hospital leaders have come to recognize that violence and the fear of violence damages healthcare systems’ finances, reputation, staffing levels and ultimately, patient care.
So, those leaders will continue to connect their hospital’s mission to the need to address workplace violence incidents, as well as the value of investing in robust violence prevention programs.
There is no denying the significant challenges that hospitals face in preventing workplace violence.
Another important issue facing healthcare leaders is how they protect staff across large campuses and those out in the community, delivering care in patients’ homes. It will take determination, investment and transformational change to truly achieve safety everywhere.
Despite healthcare workplace violence growing in frequency and complexity, it can and must be effectively addressed.
So, over the next 12 months, you will see a greater focus on – and appreciation for – healthcare security professionals.
Eric Sean Clay is a transformational security executive with more than three decades of law enforcement and security experience.
In addition to serving as the Vice President of Security Services for Memorial Hermann Health System and providing security leadership for 450 security and law enforcement officers at the system’s 17 hospitals, Eric is the current President of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS).
Eric has earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice, a Master’s Degree in Criminology, a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and a graduate certificate in Police Leadership.
This article was originally published in the Special February Influencers Edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.