Health Care System Adds Security Officers to Prevent Workplace Violence

"We wanted to figure out a solution for stemming workplace violence by getting ahead of the curve because it's a national trend, and, unfortunately, we are not immune to it," said Todd Miller, public safety and security specialist for SSM's St. Louis region, which includes eight hospitals.

Officials at SSM Health in St. Louis, Mo., have worked to better integrate security guards into their care teams as a measure to prevent violence against healthcare professionals, Modern Healthcare reports.

According to OSHA, hospital employees are more prone to injuries that lead to missing work than employees in construction and manufacturing. While 48 percent of those injuries are caused by overexertion, 9 percent are caused by violence.

"We wanted to figure out a solution for stemming workplace violence by getting ahead of the curve because it's a national trend, and, unfortunately, we are not immune to it," said Todd Miller, public safety and security specialist for SSM's St. Louis region, which includes eight hospitals.

SSM Health's purposeful patient rounding initiative was rolled out last June. The initiative encourages security guards to integrate more fully into the care team to actively work with patients and clinical staff. The goal is for guards to get a better sense of what situations could potentially lead to violence and ideally intervene before they escalate.

"The role of our security officers has changed now with much more emphasis on being another facet of the care team," Miller said.

Prior to the new initiative, security guards patrolled hospital units but didn't actively communicate with staff or patients. The guards usually only intervened when called by staff when incidents that had already become violent or disruptive. "We were taking what they were traditionally doing and trying to bring a bigger value,"Miller said.

Security officer managers at SSM Health communicated the change to the guards and clinical staff. The officers are already trained in crisis prevention but were encouraged to build rapport with staff, patients, and families and keep an eye out for potentially aggressive behavior before it escalates. With the new program, officers patrol each hospital unit at least once a day, speaking to nurses and other staff about concerns they may have about patients or their families. If a concern is raised, the officer speaks with the patient and family to discuss what might be wrong and how a problem can be addressed.

Since the initiative has been implemented, reports of violent incidents have decreased—in one case by more than half, Miller said. Before the new program started at one SSM hospital, which Miller did not name for security reasons, the four-month average of calls to security about disruptive patients was just over 34, but it has now dropped to fewer than 16.

"That's a good indicator to our team that what we are doing has value and is working," Miller said.

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