THE MAGAZINE

Case Study

By Ann Longmore-Etheridge
Hospitals are meant to stand as sanctuaries where healing can occur in a peaceful environment. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. “Violence in healthcare is very real. It’s all numbers on paper, but if you’re a nurse or security officer dealing with it, it becomes a serious concern,” says Eric Smith, CPP, security director for Exempla Healthcare at Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver.

Smith oversees security in three hospitals, the Sisters of Charity corporate office, and a boarding school for troubled youth. The flagship facility, Saint Joseph, is in the heart of Denver on a 14-acre campus. It includes 565 beds, 30 operating theaters, and a large emergency room (ER). Saint Joseph sees an excess of 18,500 patient admissions annually, as well as more than 169,000 outpatient visits, nearly 52,000 ER visits, and close to 4,000 births. Staff includes approximately 4,850 employees and physicians and 400 volunteers.

On the extreme end, “We’ve had a number of incidents—some pretty serious assaults. We’ve had [patients] commit suicide, and we’re in a high-crime area,” he states. “It’s almost a steady thing, too—some kind of violent act where security… or nurses are getting assaulted. And fortunately, it’s not usually a very serious thing, but still, no one wants to go to work and worry about getting a black eye.”

Staff had approached security in the past, inquiring about a panic-button system to speedily notify security of an incident taking place. “The big challenge was to get the capital to do it,” explains Smith. “A lot of systems require hardwiring the buttons to a desk in a central location—that ends up with the need for cables run to a network closet tied to a phone line that runs to a dispatch center.”

In the case of Saint Joseph, such a system would necessitate “running cables through patient care areas and entail putting up containment to keep the installation from affecting the patients, and it becomes a challenge and costly to do,” he says.
 

But the requests for duress buttons continued “on a regular basis,” and, in late 2012, Smith says he heard of a potentially suitable system through one of his contacts in the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS). The then-president of the IAHSS’s Colorado Chapter was Eric Banghart, senior business development manager for Inovonics Wireless Corporation of Louis­ville, Colorado, a pro­vider of enterprise life-safety and specialized commercial wireless systems.

Banghart told Smith about the Radius Enterprise Mobile Duress (EMD) system, which offers a type of button that is not tied to a particular spot, but can be carried by staffers. It is a wireless system that functions by the use of repeaters. “I liked this system because it runs on a wavelength that [would not] interfere with anything else in the hospital,” Smith explains.

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