How to determine security staffing in a healthcare environment

One of the consistent challenges I hear from my peers in healthcare security leadership is the struggle to define productivity appropriately for security staff. Productivity modeling is not a bad thing, it can actually be a valuable tool. Productivity models help us define and measure our effectiveness as an organization. These models, when effectively built, help us monitor performance and identify problems while providing a tool for planning and cost control, which is critical in today’s healthcare environment (Ruch, W, 1994). The challenge is building a model that effectively gauges the needs of the organization. 

The struggle for security leaders is the lack of an accepted industry standard for how productivity should be measured for a healthcare security program. Productivity models vary greatly from organization to organization. Often, these staffing models are based solely on the number of square feet patrolled. This is a similar metric for how other support services departments are measured, but it lacks credibility when balanced against actual security operations. In today’s dynamic healthcare environment, security staff are asked to do much more than patrol. There are static posts which do not patrol, dynamic posts which do patrol, and all the other varied tasks asked of security to fulfill whatever organizational need may be present. Modeling effectively for security staff requires a much broader view of security operations.

Let’s start by discussing static posts. Static or fixed posts include a variety of security functions. For example, there are visitor management posts, behavioral health posts, security dispatch posts, traffic management posts, etc. These types of posts do not patrol square footage within their assigned facility. The staff assigned to these posts are focused on specific tasks, and they are locked into a small geographic area within the facility. Organizational leaders have to ask questions like, “Do we want an officer always committed to the Emergency Department?” and “Do we want officers stationed at the entrances to process visitors?” Answers to these questions require a resource commitment beyond square feet patrolled. Trying to quantify their work within a simple square foot patrolled metric is inaccurate and inefficient.

Dynamic posts, which do patrol, also present challenges when building a metric to predict needs and gauge performance. Most productivity models are built off of industry bench-marking. This helps to balance the work of one facility against the work of another facility of similar size and shape. However, when it comes to security, this is not always an apple to apple comparison. When looking at the security risks for a particular entity, what may work for one will not always work for another (Vellani, Emery, & Parker, 2012). A 175-bed facility in a rural area may only need a small number of security staff, but if you put that same 175-bed facility in an urban center they will need more. When building patrol staffing, both an analysis of risk and facility layout must be considered. Time studies based on the desired patrolling methods within that specific facility layout are very helpful in defining accurate patrolling needs.

Effective security staffing models require an analysis of both fixed post needs and dynamic patrol needs. Each of these must then be added together to identify an accurate and effective productivity model. Strictly using a simple square feet patrolled metric significantly undercuts a facility’s true security staffing needs. With an analysis of both static and dynamic posts, and an honest understanding of environmental risks, an organization can create a productivity model that truly provides value.

What are your thoughts on security staffing in healthcare? Does your organization have an effective method for identifying staffing needs? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Also, please like, follow, and share to support the Proactive Security Blog.

Ruch, W. (1994). Organizational linkages: understanding the productivity paradox. Retrieved from

Vellani, K., Emery, R., Parker, N. (2012). Staffing benchmarks: a model for determining how many security officers are enough. The Journal of Healthcare Protection Management. 28(2). Pages 1-11.

2 Thoughts

  1. Security staffing in the healthcare industry is viable. There are many unknowns that healthcare staff have to contend with regularly. Having security personnel present in healthcare can be seen as a deterrent. They also can assist in situations where de-escalation tactics may be needed.

    Overall, healthcare personnel has been assaulted way too often in this industry and if a thorough risk assessment is conducted for each healthcare facility then the healthcare industry can better prepare and present a plan for implementing an effective security force. Healthcare facilities have to place much more emphasis on prevention. The better-prepared healthcare facilities are the better off they’ll be. The safety and security of the staff are paramount.

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