THE MAGAZINE

Taking the Trauma Out of Security

By Thomas F. Lynch, Robert Horton, and Monica M. Wynne

 At Baystate Medical Center (BMC) in Springfield, Massachusetts, security and psychiatric nursing staff in BMC’s Adult Psychiatric Treatment Unit (APTU) were at odds after a radical change in APTU patient behavioral modification practices made the security department believe that its resources were being wasted. To bridge the misunderstanding between the groups, calm tensions, and foster cooperation, a staff training and shadowing program was developed and implemented.

With a staff of more than 5,000, BMC is the largest of the hospitals in the Baystate Health System; it is also the leading health facility in western Massachusetts. It includes a 653-bed academic teaching hospital that serves as the Western Campus of Tufts University School of Medicine. Additionally, it is the only Level-1 Trauma Center in the region, including an emergency department—the second busiest in New England—that handles approximately 110,000 visits annually.

The BMC security department includes 50 officers and supervisors. All supervisors and half of the officers are Springfield special police with arrest powers. Typically, one supervisor and approximately 13 officers are on duty during each shift.

Violent crimes and domestic violence can lead to security crises inside the hospital. For example, the hospital may have to deal with hostilities when rival gang members encounter each other in waiting rooms after an altercation. Because of these types of risks, providing security to the emergency department demands a large chunk of the BMC security department’s resources.

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