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De-escalating Security Situations in Healthcare

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De-escalating Security Situations in Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a lot of stress for everyone affected; healthcare workers, patients, and loved ones. Many hospitals are operating at full capacity and resources are stretched thin. People are waiting hours for care, frustration and helplessness mounts. As hospitals are natural gathering points for family members and friends keeping vigil, it is there that the stress often reaches a boiling point.

The politicization of the pandemic and measures to stop the spread (masks, vaccines, etc.) have only made things worse. Everyone has an opinion, and they are spilling out into hospital admission areas, waiting rooms, hallways, emergency rooms, and parking lots.

The issue isn’t just that family members are fighting amongst themselves, there is an increasing number of assaults on healthcare workers by people who either vehemently disagree with a treatment plan or think their loved one is not getting enough attention. There are visitors who refuse to wear masks or abide by visitation rules. Many hospitals have completely suspended visitation, and crowds of angry families gathered at the front doors do not understand why they cannot come inside. It can get ugly.


In response, hospitals are increasing security. However, hospital security guards are not there to be referees; nor are they free to immediately use physical force to resolve a situation. There are certain de-escalation policies guards need to adhere to for healthcare worker, visitor, and patient safety.

Train your security officers to follow these guidelines for proper behavior during a crisis in a healthcare facility:

  • Understand that security officers are not permitted to get “hands on” with anyone touching a healthcare worker until the healthcare worker verbally asks for physical assistance. Physical intervention should always be a last resort, used with the least restrictive amount of force.
  • Teach officers to look for early warning signs of agitation (body language, tone of voice, etc.) and to intervene before the situation spins out of control.
  • Officers should respect the personal space of others unless and until physical contact is initiated by an aggressor.
  • Use techniques such as empathy to de-escalate confrontational people. Verbal intervention can be quite effective to calm agitated people when used properly.
  • In a hospital environment, it is likely to encounter people with dementia. It is important to recognize the difference between aggravation and confusion, and to be gentle with dementia patients.
  • In group situations, train security officers to identify a leader and speak to them one-on-one to get agreement on proper behavior and ask them to explain the rationale to their group.

Many of these skills are taught through courses by the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI). They equip guards with the decision-making skills needed to assess and address risk to successfully intervene in crises without harm. Trackforce Valiant offers this advice and endorses these classes as means to not only keep healthcare workers and security officers safe, but to reduce officer burnout from stress and to maximize employee retention.

For more information on strategies to de-escalate security situations in healthcare facilities, visit us at

Thinkcurity Articles
Thinkcurity Articles
Thinkcurity is revolutionizing education in the physical security industry through engaging content and thought leadership in every aspect of running a successful security operation.

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