As those of you who follow this blog know, I recently gave a severe thrashing to a hospital which got security all wrong. That hospital, based in the Las Vegas metro, attempted to prepare staffers for violence by sending an armed man in, unannounced, to conduct a ficitious terrorist attack on the staff. (Yeah, brilliant.)
Foolish behavior like the above aside, no one questions that hospital violence is a real and growing problem. The most recent authority to weigh in is no other than the Joint Commission, which notes in its latest Sentinel Event Alert that hospitals “are being confronted with steadily increasing rates of crime, including assault, rape and murder.” Extremely sobering stuff.
The standards group has developed a list of 13 steps hospitals can take to prevent violence in their facilities, such as doing a thorough risk assessment for your facility, putting extra security precautions in place in the ED and doing careful background checks on potential employees. My guess is that while most hospitals are taking some of these steps, few have developed a really comprehensive program like the one the Joint Commission has in mind.
You don’t have to be a security expert to conclude that hospitals need to confront this issue. But striking the right balance is going to be a serious challenge; after all, if your hospital’s security checkpoint resembles that found at the local airport, patients may well go elsewhere. All in all, there’s no easy answers here.