Guest Columnist
When Domestic Violence Enters a Healthcare Facility
Jan 13, 2014 - 12:29:30 PM

( - Nearly three out of four of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence according to the Allstate Foundation National Poll on Domestic Violence. Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of controlling, assaultive, and/or coercive behaviors that adults and adolescents use against their family members or intimate partners. These behaviors may involve physical, sexual, economic, and/or psychological coercion or abuse and this can happen to anyone.

When a victim of domestic violence visits a healthcare facility the chances of receiving care, assistance and protection increases if the warning signs are clear. Hospital staff needs to be aware of the signs of domestic violence and take proper security precautions when needed if the suspected abuser is present. Domestic violence is also not limited to patients as staff members may encounter domestic violence within their own family.

Security teams play an important role when working alongside hospital staff in a domestic violence situation. Officers should be trained to notice particular physical clues when an individual enters a facility. They may also be the first point of reference for a victim when entering a facility so there should be specific orders in place as to how security should assist the individual.

Secondly, if a perceived victim enters the facility with another individual who may be the abuser, security should take extra precautions in monitoring the situation. Security officers should be trained to handle domestic violence occurrences and de-escalate the situation should an issue arise. Extra security precautions should be taken in the emergency department, especially if the facility is in an area with a high crime rate or gang activity, as they tend to see a higher rate of domestic violence according to The Joint Commission. These precautions can include extra posts for the officers and limiting or screening visitors by wands or conducting bag checks.

The Joint Commission also recommends that medical staff and security work together to evaluate the facility and determine a domestic violence plan. The domestic violence plan should be a part of the overall violence prevention and security management programs. The plan should be evaluated and drills should be conducted at least annually to ensure that procedures, protocols and contacts are current and training is occurring on an ongoing basis.

Ken Bukowski is Vice President of Healthcare at AlliedBarton Security Services, the largest American-owned security officer services company.


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