STEPHEN HEMELT — Need for armed security in local healthcare industry is real

Published 12:08 am Saturday, June 10, 2023

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Roy E. Alston said he and colleagues recognize healthcare has changed significantly over the last five, 10 and 20 years.

“Our patients, our associates expect us to provide a level of security consistent with what is happening in the communities that we serve,” he told me when talked this week.

“Unfortunately, the level of violence, the level of assaults and the things that are happening generally in society are spilling over into the hospitals. We just have to give our officers and our people the tools and skills necessary to address these challenges.”

Alston has worked for CHRISTUS Health the last five years and today serves as vice president of security and public safety.

CHRISTUS is holding a free training program next month that will earn finishers a Level III training certificate and the ability to work as an armed security guard in Texas.

The CHRISTUS training mirrors the state training.

CHRISTUS Health is fortunate enough, Alston said, to have a license to conduct the school.

“We have our own training academy, and we have facilities that can teach this course,” he said. “We use the exact curriculum from the state so the individual can pass the state licensing exam once this is over.”

During the course, CHRISTUS officials will also begin the conversation about what it is like to be an armed security officer in a healthcare setting.

That is different then being an armed security officer in a bank or office building, according to Alston.

“There is a specific skill set and a specific focus we have in the healthcare setting,” he said.

Alston added most of the individuals currently employed by CHRISTUS went through the Level III course on their own.

“We provide up to 40 hours of continuous training every year for our armed security officers across the board,” he said.

To register for the program, email or call 409-710-9416.

Earlier this year nurse Keri Reeves, president of the Golden Triangle Emergency Nurses Association and director of Emergency Services and Education at The Medical Center of Southeast Texas, shared a story of being 38 weeks pregnant with her youngest son, when a patient became angry and violent.

The patient kicked her in the stomach and said he’d like to kill her.

“We all have stories like that,” Reeves told a group of healthcare workers, law enforcement and media.

Violence against healthcare is an escalating issue. Last year there were 1,700 nurses assaulted each month, which equates to two per hour, she said.

The nurses association is working to bring awareness to the violence with the backing of local law enforcement.

Reeves told of a healthcare worker who was working in front of a hospital when an upset family member of a patient tried to come into the facility to see their mother. At that time they were not allowed back and the worker was trying to calm the family member when they threatened to kill him.

These are the stories from our own community that highlight the need for security in all current and future healthcare facilities.

There is clearly a need in Southeast Texas, which makes our region of the country no different than the rest of the United States.

For those looking to make a difference in their hometowns and secure what could be a lifetime of employment, next month’s security training could answer two important needs.

Stephen Hemelt is the publisher at Orange Newsmedia, which produces the Orange Leader, and Orange Living Magazine. He can be reached at