When looking at healthcare security officers, one of the biggest topics of conversation is training. How do you train the officers? What do you train the officers on? What level of certification do the officers receive? Is the training effective? These are all questions that may be commonly asked following a critical incident, amongst a survey or inspection, or when speaking about a hospital’s security department. From department to department, these questions may have varying responses, officers trained to different levels and standards within an organization, outsourced training versus in house, computer-based training versus in person, or any combination of these.

The Huntsville Hospital Health System’s Security Department has standardized this process by establishing their own in-house Security Training Department and implementing their very own Security Officer Academy, known as the P.R.I.D.E Academy. The P.R.I.D.E Academy holds two very strong meanings, the first being the self and departmental pride that is instilled in each security officer as they progress through the course, as well as the acronym “Professionalism, Responsibility, Integrity, Determination and Effectiveness,” core values that are instilled into each candidate attending the academy.

The Huntsville Hospital Health System is located primarily in North Alabama with an additional hospital in southern Tennessee. It is a nonprofit hospital system with approximately 15,000 employees. Hospitals are typically high-stress environments, whether due to patients, concerned family members or the nature of healthcare work. Additionally, hospitals involve potentially violent interactions when a patient isn’t fully aware of their actions, meaning training is different than for police officers or the military. Prior to starting the P.R.I.D.E Academy, the hospital security department at Huntsville Hospital Health System came from a variety of backgrounds and training levels.

The P.R.I.D.E Academy was implemented in 2004 by Health System Security Director Brett Bramlett, CHPA, CHSP, to develop a structured and standardized training system for the health system security officers to ensure that every officer was mentally, physically and professionally prepared to step into their roles within the health system prior to their first day on post. Regardless of the post or location that an officer is assigned, the P.R.I.D.E Academy brought each employee to the same high level of training and self-confidence, building a team of proactive security officers as opposed to a team of reactive security guards.

“For the most part, no one wants to be at a hospital with the exception of someone having a child. Even if it’s an elective surgery, no one really wants to have their shoulder operated on. You’ve got to have the right people on the team, and we needed to do more training for the officers to recognize the gray areas, the customer service areas, and the human nature of what’s going on,” Bramlett says.

Prior to 2004, the Huntsville Hospital Health System’s security training was varied, starting with the security-contracted vendor at the time training each officer to their internal level of training requirements, to having officers review and test for varying levels of certification from the Crisis Prevention Institute. Bramlett decided it was time to introduce a training program that set standards from day one to ensure he was leading the best security department in the nation. This took shape in the form of a four-week academy that candidates would have to complete prior to earning the title of a P.R.I.D.E Security Officer.

During this four-week training cycle, candidates reach the following achievements before operating as a security officer within the health system.

  •  Receive the following certifications:
    • International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) Basic Certification
    • Management of Aggressive Behaviors (MOAB) for verbal and physical de-escalation. This training is also offered to all staff within the department as a one-day course.
    • Axon Taser X26P Application
    • Oleoresin Capsicum Aerosol Training (OCAT) OC Spray Application
    • Practical and Tactical Handcuffing (PATH) Tactics
  • How to properly wear and fit their issued protective vests
  • Proper response for every emergency code
  • Patient transportation procedures, including for non-ambulatory and high-risk patients
  • Defensive driving and vehicle extrication
  • Fire prevention and response training
  • How the Hugs infant protection system operates
  • How to conduct proactive patrolling
  • Stop the bleed/tourniquet application
  • Receive a minimum of three in-depth counseling sessions with their instructor or the security department leadership team
  • Complete an initial physical training (PT) assessment to ensure physical capabilities and continue physical training.
  • U.S. Flag Code and proper flag folding techniques
  • Proper report writing

All of this training cumulates to a final training exercise where each candidate must complete a timed PT assessment consisting of ascending five flights of stairs, carry 45- to 70-pound equipment approximately 400 feet, descend six additional flights of stairs, extinguish a simulated fire, extricate a simulated violent offender from a vehicle, and then apply handcuffs. All of this must be completed in a time limit of three minutes to mimic the security department’s three-minute response time goal for any call within any facility. Upon completion of this PT assessment, candidates go on to complete their final IAHSS testing, as well as their voluntary exposures to both the Taser X26P and OC spray.

Upon completion of these trainings, each candidate undergoes four full days of on-the-job training at various security posts throughout the Huntsville Hospital Health System before being allowed to attend their graduation ceremony where the candidates are awarded their title as a P.R.I.D.E Security Officer.

Training does not end when an officer goes on shift. Every P.R.I.D.E Security Officer completes an annual refresher and recertification on the skills taught during the academy, and by their fifth year of service, each officer will have achieved their IAHSS Advanced Certification as well.

These accomplishments achieved through the robust P.R.I.D.E Academy training program are all testaments to the dedication the Huntsville Hospital Health System’s security department has to keeping employees, patients and visitors all safe and secure.

“As the world around us evolves, we constantly adapt to make sure that we're being mindful of those changes, and we try to be proactive in staying ahead of any situations. I believe we've been fairly successful in that so far,” Bramlett says.