Healthcare workers have long faced significant risk of violence on the job. But the hospital security crisis didn’t just happen by chance. Specific reasons explain these high rates of occupational violence.
Think those reasons don’t matter to you? Think again. Many of the underlying, hospital security risk factors are germane to most professional sectors.
Healthcare-specific causes of the hospital security crisis
Let’s start with the obvious. Healthcare settings are at high security risk because of the work of clinicians. However, many elements of clinical work clearly overlap with those of work performed in non-healthcare sectors, likely including yours. Those elements include:
- Lone work, better understood as work alone, in isolation, or in a remote area. There, the ability of workers to call for assistance can be limited.
- Isolated work, better understood as work offsite or in the community
- Work in unpredictable environments
- Customer-facing work, specifically work involving face-to-face communication with customers
- Care work, particularly work providing care to people who are in distress, afraid, ill, and/or incarcerated, as well as work providing care or services to people who have unreasonable expectations of what an organisation and or employee can provide to them
- Use of service methods that cause frustration, resentment, or misunderstanding
Of the above, only care work is intrinsic to the healthcare sector. By the same token, though, workers in multiple industries provide services liable to cause frustration, resentment, or misunderstanding to people who have unreasonable expectations. Outside of healthcare, workers in multiple industries also provide services to people who are in distress, afraid, ill, and/or incarcerated. What’s more, lone work (or merely isolated work) is incredibly common.
Indeed, these “intrinsic” factors should give cold comfort to security professionals in non-care industries. Because, while care work has its own risk, work in care settings is also dangerous for a number of reasons that have little or nothing to do with care work at all.
Non-healthcare-specific factors contributing to the hospital security crisis
In fact, these reasons are analogous to the very structural challenges of securing people and physical assets that we see across physical security operations more broadly. They include:
- Practitioners don’t understand the security role. In healthcare, specifically, medical staff often misunderstands the nature and substance of the security officer role. Medical staff also doesn’t understand its own role in security operations, either.
However, it’s all too common outside of the healthcare setting for practitioners to routinely ask or direct on-staff (or contract) security officers to do things outside of the latter’s roles, responsibilities, and powers. Nor is it uncommon that practitioners fail both to alert security officers once they become aware of a potentially difficult situation requiring security attention as well as include security staff in subsequent post-incident debriefings.
- Safety and security are not prioritised. A culture of safety and security is lacking throughout the hospital system. But the cultural values of work safety and security are poorly understood and rarely mandated by many in the non-healthcare C-suite, if the research on the underreporting of safety incidents is to be believed. Rare are the companies that have positive compliance postures and affirmative safety and security cultures.
- Incident information management systems (IIMSs) fail to deliver. The systems (IIMSs) hospitals are using to track and report on security incidents don’t have the functionality needed to support robust security operations. Here again, many non-healthcare companies have failed to make the appropriate investments in digital security management platforms that would provide security teams sufficient detail about a given incident. In fact, security teams across most sectors routinely decry a basic lack of functionality.
Do these hospital security risk factors come too close for comfort? Well, there’s much you can do. Updating policies, processes, and practices is a good start.
But those changes will mean little without investing in the right integrated security software platforms to support security-promoting behaviours and give security professionals a better understanding of risk. What would that system look like?
Download our Security Management Software Buyer’s Guide to find out: