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Security in the Psychiatric Ward

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Matthew Gates


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Working in a hospital is by far one of the best experiences I could have had as a Security Officer. I loved it and really felt important. I remember the day I first applied to become hospital security. Interesting that the only thing the boss cared about on my resume was the fact that I had been taking Judo classes while in college and was in the Judo club. Anyways, I was hired immediately for a full time position as a security officer.

As with any security job, it has its perks, and also its boring tedious moments. One cool perk was the fact that i got to carry around a radio and say “10-4” and “copy that.” Some of the areas of the job were sitting in the lobby greeting people, driving a security vehicle around the perimeter, sitting on a suicide watch, free floating around the hospital, monitoring all the cameras in the Command Center, and hanging around in the psychiatric ward.

The Command Center was great because I could control all the cameras around the entire hospital and observe everything going on, make appropriate calls to inform other security personnel of where to go in case there were any emergencies, and also receive calls from any area that needed help or assistance with a patient. Assistance with a patient normally meant helping lift them up because they fell off the bed or fell down. There were other times, however, where help meant that the psychiatric patients were acting up and either security presence was needed to keep the patient calm, and if all else failed, force was needed.

The job was mostly stagnant, but at times, when you got the call to head down to the Emergency Room or the Psychiatric Ward, you were racing and beginning to fill with adrenaline, preparing yourself to take down a patient and strap them to the bed. The rules were that you should never handle a patient yourself. You should always call for backup because it would be less painful for the patient and the security officer if there were more than one security officers present, which makes sense. If you have four security officers that take down a patient, one to lunge at the legs, and three at the upper torso, it is less likely that anyone will be hurt.

One time, we were called for a patient acting up. He was both a psychiatric patient and a patient in the hospital, but he was a very sensitive patient, considering the fact that he had AIDS, and would spit at those nearest to him. It ended up that we had to hold a pillow to the side of his face, to prevent him from spitting, while strapping him down to the bed in order to get him under control. It was quite scary, adrenaline racing, but also it felt like our lives were on the line, considering there were only two security officers available at the time, before backup finally arrived a few minutes later.

Timing is everything when you get a call from on your radio from security. The problem with calling for backup is that it does take time for the other security officers to get around the hospital to where you are. I also had another psychiatric patient who gave me warning, called me names and told me he was going to try to leave. I asked him politely, “Will you give me time to call for backup before you try anything?” He agreed he would. I had called for backup who attempted to calm him down by talking, but he was not having any of it, and tried to leave, and fought four grown men - security officers, who held him down, and strapped him to the bed.

I also was on suicide watch and even had the patient blame me for raping her, even though I was in clear sight of the doctors and all the nurses. I felt bad for her, because of her deep mistrust and abuse by men. I wanted to help her, yet I was only there to watch her and make sure she did not do anything stupid.

I will never forget the guys I worked with, two of them worked in a Correctional Facility during the day, and came to do hospital security by night. For another, he worked as security at Sears during the day, and came to do hospital security at night. And for me, it was my full time job while I was going to college.

Another interesting aspect of the job was that someone had to handle the expiration of people, that is, they passed away, and after the families were finished grieving, security was called to remove the body and take it to the morgue. Often times, it would look as if the person was still breathing, because gases were still escaping the body, and being alone in the elevator, with a flatulent corpse was somewhat awkward as well. Do you excuse the corpse for letting out a fart in the elevator?

I would see doctors and nurses constantly going out for a smoke break, wondering how they could even continue doing it, knowing they just treated a patient for cancer or other smoking-related health issues. It was beyond me, but I suppose once you get over the fact that smoking will cut your life short by a few years, and you will die an earlier death, almost no one ever takes it seriously. Sure, twenty, even forty years seems like a long time, and when they tell you that you can save five or ten years of your life by quitting or not smoking, well, not too many people care about those ten years.

There were also the Emergency Room, which seemed to always be action packed, with people who just got into serious car accidents. I remember a man coming in and the doctors and nurses already knew he had just minutes to live. He had been in a motorcycle accident, and all of his organs were shifted to the opposite side of his body, and the fact that he was still somehow alive, though incoherent, was a miracle. Another man, only thirty five years old came in once, who had a heart attack and I stayed in the room, watching as they tried to revive him. They tried for about ten minutes to bring him back to life, as his wife was outside the room, crying. But they eventually called it and he was dead. I want to say that I felt some of the souls leaving. Maybe when you work in an area that is so close to death, you can feel that spirits hovering over their bodies, looking at everyone in the room for the last time, before they drift off into the abyss.

I also was the security officer assigned to work in the maternity ward one day a week. I actually did not mind it at all. I was a college student, so it gave me plenty of time to do my homework. My job was to sit there and monitor and let fathers and families in who came to visit their mothers and babies in the maternity ward, and also, kick out people after 8 PM. It was never usually a problem, though sometimes families would sneak people in and stay there well past visiting hours. Only fathers were allowed to stay overnight.

There were two supervisors I had as well. I really hate jobs where supervisors are out to get you because they are making a dollar more than you and see you as competition and try to make your job more miserable than it has to be. First of all, the supervisors were making a dollar more than me and doing a lot more work. I preferred to stay exactly where I was at the time that I had the job. Anyways, one supervisor had started to get on my case all the time for some reason, mouthed off to one of the hospital administrators after an incident of how we handled a patient. This was actually the earlier incident, where she walked in on us holding a pillow to the side of the man’s face and thought we were suffocating him. In fact, it was not that at all. We were protecting ourselves from his spitting. I did defend him but he was demoted and eventually just stopped caring, and was eventually fired.

The supervisor who was promoted to take his place got all gungho about his new position and let it go to his head. He too, saw me as competition and put me in positions where he could write me up and get on my nerves. For example, though I requested not to be put in the vehicle after dinner, as sitting in a warm private place, would likely put me to sleep, he did it anyway, and took pictures of me sleeping. He then wrote me up and told the boss, who I was on very good terms with since the start.

The boss called me into his office one day and said, “Were you sleeping on the job out in the car?” I was honest and said to him, “I told him several times to always put me in a public place or a place where I could walk around after dinner and after that shift, I would gladly take post in the security vehicle. He keeps ignoring my request, even though I clearly told him I would fall asleep if put there.” The boss said, “He’s probably busting your chops. Well, you’re not in trouble. In fact, that’s not the only thing he’s complained about, but I’m glad you’re doing stuff to piss him off. It’s keeping him on his feet, and that’s why I hired you. So keep up the great work. I’ll see you later.” He was an awesome boss.

By the way, one of the best perks to working there was a 2-week paid vacation every year. Each week, you earned seven and a half hours of PTO (Paid Time Off), so I certainly enjoyed those amazing benefits. This was one of the best jobs I’ve ever held. I really wish I could have stayed with it, but I had graduated college with an Associate’s Degree and wanted to go to a University out of state. So once I got into a university, I put in my two weeks, had an exit interview, and left the job for good. Although the pay was just OK, I really enjoyed it. It was one of my favorite jobs. The health benefits were great and the company offered a 401K which I contributed to daily. I loved working for that hospital. If I could go back, I would, but my career has only taken off and I must move forward with where ever it takes me.

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