Violence remains widespread in today’s society, and unfortunately, has risen in hospitals over the years. In February of this year, a Florida man walked into Capital Regional Medical Center in Tallahassee and murdered his mother by stabbing her to death. As tragic, violent acts like these continue to occur; the perception of hospitals as safe, protective settings for healing has shifted. According to a survey by the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS), the overall violent crime rate in US hospitals last year increased compared to 2016.1 As violence continues to plague hospitals at an alarming rate, healthcare facilities are desperately searching for more effective security measures to help combat violence and increase safety in their facilities.
An ongoing national debate in the last few years revolves around whether arming hospital’s security personnel is an effective method to help improve safety and decrease workplace violence. A national survey cited by The New York Times, reported that in 2014, 52 percent of hospitals stated that their hospital security officers carried handguns, while 47 percent indicated that their security were armed with Tasers.2 The number of armed hospital security personnel in 2014 more than doubled that of three years prior.
Many healthcare facilities with armed security personnel contend that firearms and Tasers aid not only in reducing or even eliminating dangerous and violent situations, but also help patients, visitors, and hospital professionals feel safe. Hospitals with unarmed security, however, argue that arming officers with weapons sends the wrong message in an already sensitive setting; instead, amplifying the violence epidemic and making patients and visitors feel conflicted and unsafe.
There are many considerations hospitals must address before deciding whether or not to enforce armed security in their facilities. Legislation aside, one disputed concern is public perception. A patient or visitor’s perception of a hospital is oftentimes immediately formed very early on by elements such as the layout of the parking lot or facility, level of cleanliness, and friendliness of personnel. What effect then does having a security officer that is armed with a weapon have on a patient, visitor, or hospital staff compared to an officer carrying only handcuffs? The public as a whole may either feel more or less secure with the presence of a firearm. Does the sheer presence of an armed security officer deter violent crimes or does it have a negative consequence?
While the decision whether to enforce armed security is an individual one for each hospital, it remains a controversial topic of debate, challenging many long-held viewpoints.
What’s your take? PDC Healthcare would love to hear your opinion, and what security measures your facility has recently mandated.