The ongoing stress of COVID visitor management

As we careen into the sixth month of our national COVID response, we continue to see visitor management as a key stress point for healthcare facilities. The realities of COVID visitor management for most healthcare facilities represents a significant paradigm shift for our industry at large. We have, in the last sixth months, moved rapidly from an industry focused on creating open and caring environments to facilities that are locked down and off limits. This is a culture shift within our own industry, but also a culture shift for those we serve as well.

Securing our facilities, in the process of a culture shift is straight forward. I identified some of the keys to successful visitor management early on in my blog: Four keys to successful hospital visitor management during the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point, most of us have established effective processes for managing access and screening those who enter our facilities. However, the ongoing stress of this level of access control is beginning to take its toll on those frontline workers who have been tasked with holding the line at the door.

The challenge before healthcare leaders is how to best prepare these frontline workers to effectively carry out this mission effectively.  As healthcare security leaders, we are uniquely equipped to assist in that preparation.

The first step is to standardize the jobs associated with screening and visitor management. Many facilities have used all types of staff to cover this function due to the rapid deployment need in the early stages of the pandemic. However, now is the time to create, post and hire people to serve this specific function. Healthcare facilities need to start by recruiting the right people for this job.

Second, we must train these employees well. This includes training in de-escalation crisis intervention. Check points equal stress points, and the moment we tell someone they cannot enter the facility with their loved one we must expect behavioral escalation. Training our screeners to respond appropriately is a critical need.

Finally, we must support them with physical security deterrents. This includes actual officer presence whenever possible, and physical barriers for protection. Plexiglass dividers and other barriers not only provide protection from possible exposure to the virus, but they also provide protection from physical assault when de-escalation fails.

In each case, healthcare security leaders have significant experience to bring to the table in preparing the facility and these critical staff members more effectively for the job at hand. This paradigm shift in our industry posture towards visitation is here to stay, its time we embrace this role and leverage it to better protect our patients and staff members.

How does your facility manage visitation and access control? Have you experienced the increase in stress and friction associated with ongoing visitation restriction? Join the conversation in the comments below, and do not forget to like, follow and share to support the Proactive Security Blog.

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