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Security officers in psychiatric hospitals wear many hats, from providing security to doctors and nurses to offering companionship to residents. A wide variety of people reside in psychiatric hospitals, from those seeking help for minor psychiatric conditions to those who have been hospitalized due to criminal insanity. Consequently, good security guards don't make assumptions about residents, but do remain constantly vigilant.
An unfortunate reality of life in a psychiatric hospital is that some residents pose a danger to themselves. Security guards must protect all residents. This may mean inspecting residents' rooms for potential threats, such as shoelaces that can be used to hang oneself. It also means assessing the proper use of force for patients who are out of control. For example, a person experiencing a psychotic episode may begin destroying property, and must be restrained. A good security guard avoids excessive and prolonged use of restraints, while still ensuring that patients pose no danger to themselves or others.
Protecting Staff and Residents
Particularly in facilities that house the criminally insane, security guards take a more active role in security than they might in a traditional hospital. You may be assigned a floor that you must perpetually patrol, and in some cases, may even be tasked with protecting an individual doctor or nurse. When medical staff work with a patient, you may sit in on the meetings and be required to intervene if the patient becomes dangerous.
Controlling Entrance and Exit
Some psychiatric hospital residents are there due to court order rather than personal choice. This makes controlling who exits the building of paramount importance, and security guards often receive daily updates on who can and can't go outside or leave the building. Likewise, doctors may limit who can visit a patient, particularly if the visitor poses a danger to the patient. Security guards must ensure that each visitor is authorized and has not brought contraband, such as weapons or drugs, into the hospital.
Protecting Patient Information
All psychiatric hospital workers have a duty to protect patient privacy, but security guards at psychiatric facilities often know more about patient histories than those who work in traditional hospitals. Security guards may sit in on therapy sessions or know the dosage of a drug a patient takes to calm anxiety. HIPAA laws prevent you from disclosing this information to anyone, including family members, without specific, written authorization.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Understanding Health Information Privacy
- The Trentonian: Guards Demand More Training, Help at Psych Hospital in Trenton
- Confessions of the Professions: Security in the Psychiatric Ward
- CampusSafety: Patient Attacks Nurse at Psychiatric Facility for Teens
- State of Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals: Directory
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.