On June 1, 2022, five people, including the gunman involved, were shot and killed at a medical building on a hospital campus in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Later, police released more details, saying the gunman was a patient who was upset about the pain he was experiencing following back surgery and blamed one of the physicians. Police say he shot and killed the doctor who performed the surgery and three other innocent people before taking his own life. According to the National Institutes of Health, or N-I-H, between 70 and 74 percent of workplace assaults in the United States happen in health care settings. The N-I-H even classifies it as a growing epidemic.
That shooting in Oklahoma was the latest tragic event that shocked the nation, and put the topic of hospital security front and center. The subject matter has long been a top priority across all CHRISTUS Health Ministries. In fact, three years ago, CHRISTUS Health promoted its security force to State Certified Level 3 Commissioned Security Officers, which allows them to carry firearms on duty.
Roy Alston is the Vice President of Security for CHRISTUS Health.
Alston says there are now standardized training and specific expectations for the CHRISTUS Security Officer position, and there’s also additional requirements which include compassion, understanding and empathy.
“One of the interview questions we ask, “If you see somebody, a lady and her kids are sitting in a corner being quiet, just sitting there, not really needing to be in the hospital, what would you do?” And if an officer candidate tells us, ‘Well, I’ll just tell them to leave.’ That’s not the person we want,” explained Alston. “We want people who have compassion and grace and empathy for everyone’s situation, because we’re not just a place where people come to get their physical bodies taken care of. We’re a place where people seek God’s healing presence and love and our facilities. We have to facilitate that. Security has to allow people to feel comfortable, secure and safe. So we’re looking for very unique individuals.”
Officer Joseph Newcost is the security manager at CHRISTUS Health’s Southeast Texas ministry and as Jillian Fertig, CHRISTUS Calling podcast host, found out he’s one of those unique individuals. Jillian spent a couple of hours shadowing Officer Newcost as he made his morning rounds.
“Yes, we have security, and yes we want everybody to be safe. But we’re also team players, and we want to provide support for other departments. We want to show the community if they come to CHRISTUS, they are in a safe environment,” said Officer Newcost. “We want everything to be safe and secure. We want to let people know we’re more than just security that walks around with a gun. We’re team players and we want the best outcomes for everybody.”
Jillian’s unique perspective on the security team, specific insight into what it takes to de-escalate potential violence in a healthcare setting, and details of how the CHRISTUS security team patrols a health care campus to keep everyone safe both inside and outside the walls of a hospital can be found here, in the latest CHRISTUS Calling Episode: CHRISTUS Security: Protecting Patients and Staff