Just like a nurse, pharmacist, physician or any other member of a hospital staff - a hospital security officer has the duty to serve those who need help and care. And just like any other professional, training and continuing education are vital for their roles within the facility.
“Ongoing training is extremely important for security officers,” Blount Memorial Hospital security supervisor Lt. Rick Silvis explains. “It keeps us up-to-date and gives us the edge we need to do our jobs to the best of our abilities.”
For hospital security training, Silvis says, “The objective is to get crisis situations under control as quickly as possible without anybody getting hurt.” Blount Memorial Hospital security supervisor Dewey Ackerman emphasizes that the key is to minimize danger, force and conflict at all times. “Our response is based on the response of the individual that we are making contact with. We try to use the most appropriate response to what they are doing, to hopefully lessen the harm to everybody.”
Blount Memorial assistant director of security Mike Steele is a certified instructor in Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI). He instructs all Blount Memorial employees on how to assess each potential crisis and deescalate the situation using non-violent techniques until security officers can arrive. In many cases, hospital staff members are able to eliminate a possible crisis situation without the help of security by using CPI techniques.
Steele says that all security officers are state certified prior to hire, and then continue education and training while employed at Blount Memorial Hospital. “Education continues in many different areas, including handcuffing, chemical spray, shield training, hospital policies and procedures, state laws, crisis resolution and use of force.”
Blount Memorial facilities director Bruce Martin says that a lot of the security officers’ training is done in-house as a team. Silvis - who has a background thick in military, law enforcement and security - instructs some of this training within the hospital. The security officers also train with local law enforcement.
On Sunday, Aug. 15, members of the Blount County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT) invited Blount Memorial security officers to participate in shield training at their facility. CERT is a special unit that uses less lethal methods of control to deal with high-risk situations in the Blount County Detention Facility. Steele says the use of a security shield is mostly implemented during situations that may involve weapons or bodily fluids.
Martin, who attended the shield training, says he learned a lot about which situations the shield should or should not be used in. “There is a lot of skill involved, and it takes several people to use the shield correctly,” he says. “It’s not something that can be done without training, and even if you have the training, you still have to be able to let go of the shield at some point and take control of handcuffing a combative person.”
Ackerman, who also is a reserve officer at the sheriff’s office, agrees that it is important to know how to “use all of the tools in your tool belt,” and to know what tool you should use in each situation. “One person is not enough. It’s about teamwork and thinking fast on your feet.”
Silvis said the shield training was most useful because it made the security officers more aware of their skills. “It really helped the officers gain confidence in their abilities.” Martin and Steele add that training with law enforcement allows them to build relationships. “The security department is extremely grateful for the relationships we have with both the Blount County Sheriff’s Office and Maryville Police Department,” Steele says. Martin adds, “We are thankful for the opportunities they invite our security officers to participate in, and appreciate the continuing education that is presented to our department from local law enforcement.”
Steele reminds that crisis resolution is only a part of hospital security’s every day job. “The bulk of what we do is respond to calls of service to the public including vehicle assistance, welfare checks, serving civil process, theft deterrent and hospital code response.” Crisis resolution for the officers can sometimes include dealing with domestic violence, an upset family member of a patient, someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or a patient with an altered mental state.
And when it comes to some of the more difficult situations, Silvis adds that the best training of all is the day-to-day experience they get while on the job. “The most important tool is your mind. You have to think through every situation and always try to solve things the easy way. Even if it means just sitting and talking with someone for a while.”