Hospitals are more dangerous environments than many realize. Healthcare facilities operate on the frontlines of societal issues, offering help to those experiencing some of their worst, most desperate and most volatile moments. While it's a necessary and noble service, it’s also risky. In fact, research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that American healthcare workers are five times more likely to experience workplace violence than the average U.S. employee— and account for nearly three-quarters of non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses.
Hospital security officers are an integral part of an effective response to this challenge. As the eyes, ears and arms of the security program, these professionals are foundational to any thriving hospital. From average salary to qualifications, here’s everything you need to know about the role.
What is a hospital security officer?
Hospital security officers are private security professionals that help healthcare facilities maintain order and safety by patrolling the grounds, identifying issues, responding to emergencies, and more. To perform these duties, hospital security guards need to be observant, courteous, courageous, and adaptable:
Observant: Hospital security officers need to have a keen eye for details and good memory so they can spot and report potential issues.
Courteous: Hospital security guards constantly interact with patients, visitors, and other staff members, making it essential for them to have a friendly disposition.
Courageous: Like police officers, hospital security officers can find themselves in high-risk situations where the ability to remain calm and the courage to act are paramount.
Adaptable: The private security industry evolves rapidly. Strategies, techniques, and technologies are always changing, and hospital guards must stay updated on the latest best practices to be effective.
What are the duties of a hospital security officer?
Patrol: Security guards are responsible for walking the hospital premises and staying on the lookout for anything suspicious or concerning.
Monitor: Security guards must keep a careful watch over security camera feeds and check in with other security team members and hospital staff to maintain a constant read on the facility's state.
Report: Security guards are responsible for reporting anything important to leadership or other hospital security officers.
Prevent: Security guards must do everything possible to head off security and safety issues — like fights, vandalism, and other disturbances — before they snowball into major incidents.
Respond: Security guards must respond appropriately to emergencies and do their part to bring the situation back under control.
What equipment do hospital security officers use?
Gear: Hospital security guards can wear tactical boots, utility belts and sometimes body armor. Tactical boots are tough enough to handle some of the more demanding aspects of the job while offering the comfort needed to support walking and standing for extended periods. A utility belt keeps essential security tools like the flashlight or TASER within easy reach. And body armor can protect guards from gunfire, stabbing and other weapon-based hazards.
Communications: Many security teams use classic two-way radios and mobile devices to communicate. Each has its advantages, but smartphones have additional video, photo, audio and text documentation capabilities — making them increasingly popular among hospital security officers in recent years.
Defensive equipment: Hospital security guards commonly keep batons, pepper spray and handcuffs on their utility belts. Many guards do not carry firearms, instead relying on non-lethal devices like TASERs to safely resolve challenging altercations.
Documentation: Besides mobile phones, body-worn cameras are one of the most popular documentation tools in private security. These devices give guards a hands-free way of capturing incidents to create an accurate record of events.
Flashlight: Hospital security officers often have to patrol at night or in low-light environments, making the flashlight a critical piece of equipment.
How much do hospital security officers make?
Salaries for hospital security officers range from $24K to $53K annually. Because the income data varies by provider, we’ve included figures reported by ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor and Talent.com below to give a fair sampling.
ZipRecruiter reports that the average hospital security officer makes just under $34K annually, with top earners taking home $46.5K and those on the low end making $24.5K a year.
Glassdoor reports that the average hospital security officer makes over $39K annually, with top earners taking home $53K and those on the low end making $29K a year.
Talent.com reports that the average hospital security officer makes just under $34K annually, with top earners taking home almost $38K and those on the low end making $29.2K a year.
What qualifications do hospital security officers need?
Here are the general education, training, experience and soft skills required to become a hospital security guard.
Education: Most employers do not require candidates to have a four-year or two-year degree. A high school diploma is the standard formal education requirement.
Training: Hospital security guards need training in CPR, fire, safety, emergency response, weapons, self-defense and more. Healthcare employers can expect candidates to have completed certain training and certifications ahead of time or within a certain period after being hired.
Experience: Many employers want candidates to have some related experience doing security work, but it doesn’t need to be extensive. As little as a year of experience is often all that is required. Experience in a healthcare environment is definitely an advantage.
Soft skills: Most healthcare employers expect candidates to have strong communication skills, both verbal and written. Guards have to be able to interact successfully with a wide variety of people during difficult scenarios. They also must be comfortable with and capable of writing detailed written accounts of events.
How hospitals can boost guard effectiveness
Hospitals cannot function properly — or perhaps at all — without the support of hospital security officers. As the medical sector's first line of defense, these professionals provide doctors, nurses and other staff with the vital protection they need to do their jobs.
That said, the effectiveness of hospital guards is largely determined by the security framework they work within. Axon recently interviewed four seasoned hospital security experts to draw out principles every healthcare facility should use to optimize its security strategy.