Last year I had the opportunity to do a Mandt System® workshop at which several security staff from a hospital were in attendance. The teamwork they described between themselves and the medical staff was fantastic and served as a catalyst for discussion in how staff could support each other in different human service settings.The security guards said that when they are on duty they walk around and focus on areas that often are breeding grounds for frustration and anxiety, two of the emotions that are present when stress increases.

In the waiting room, if they see someone who looks frustrated, they walk up to them and ask if they can get something for the person, if they have a child with them the security guards have little “doo-dads” in their pockets they hand out, and show in little ways that someone is paying attention to people who are anxious about themselves or someone they love. They will walk up to the admitting area and find out approximately how long it will be before they can be seen.

In another hospital, the security guards emphasize that they are not there to show force, they are there to show safety, to project to people the security of knowing that someone is there looking out for you. They show safety by being part of the group instead of part of the furniture, in their words. They interact, smile, and present themselves in a way that demonstrates respect and not threat.

In yet another hospital, security staff have to sometimes deal with victims of shooting incidents, which is the easy part. The hard part is the family members and friends and sometimes people who are not friends coming in to the hospital. The security staff in this hospital keep their R.A.D.A.R. on for indicators of trouble, looking at the little “gang sign” indicators that are often present, and walking over to the person and talking about what the hospital is here for, using a non-threatening tone of voice, showing respect to the person and, the security staff said, every single time we approach people like that, they de-escalate.

Security staff make it possible for the medical staff to do their jobs more effectively. By not having to worry about what else might be happening, by knowing security staff are out there preventing incidents from escalating to crisis settings.

As the security staff support the medical staff, the medical staff must find ways to support security staff. I have heard in some hospitals that security staff are treated like the “goon squad” and only called on when there is an emergency. We need to recognize that we are in “a relationship of equals with a difference of role.” The administrator in one hospital makes it a point to interact with all the staff in which she works, making sure all their contributions to the healing of patients is recognized.

Jeff Baker is a charge nurse in an emergency room in Dubuque, Iowa, and he estimates they have reduced restraints by 75% or more since they began using Mandt. Jeff said they teach it to everyone, including security staff, department heads, maintenance staff, etc. Everyone gets the training because everyone needs it! In another hospital, the administrator decided to teach Mandt to physicians. The trainers were anxious; after all, these were doctors! So they designed a “mini-Mandt” class and after the doctors took the class, they said they wanted more! They wanted the entire class, because in medical school there is almost no attention paid to the little things we teach about building healthy relationships, communicating with people under stress, recognizing the importance of body language, etc.

Working together as a team means respecting each other’s contributions to successful outcomes, and learning from mistakes, together. This really is a “relationship of equals with a difference of roles” and when we can get past our differences in title and affirm each other’s roles, we can more easily provide safety for everyone.

Bob Bowen – CEO, The Mandt System