The role of healthcare security officers has changed and expanded in recent years due to sweeping changes in the healthcare environment.

Hospitals are confronted with a variety of new challenges to maintaining the safety of patients, medical staff and visitors. The number of critically ill patients and visitors is surging. Hospital security teams are scrambling to develop strategies and mecha-nisms to cope with new threats, such as terrorism and cyber-terrorism, and are focusing on emergency preparedness and disaster planning.

“The job of protecting the security of healthcare organizations has very different demands and is much more challenging than when I started in the business,” said Bonnie Michelman, CPP, CHPA, director of police security and outside services at Massachusetts General Hospital, a 5-million-square-foot facility with 23,000 employees.

Michelman’s approach for achieving optimal security incorporates elements, including a well-trained and educated staff, policies and protocols to support a secure environment, and awareness and training programs for hospital employees.

State of-the-art technology and systems designed to fit the inherent risks also play an important role. Michelman uses a mix of tools to safeguard the hospital environment, including closed-circuit television systems, DVRs, biometrics, fiber optics and diverse alarm sys-tems, designed to meet the needs of specific areas. Many of these items and system types rely on the electrical contractor for specification and installation.

“The technology we employ must be cost-effective and convenient enough for employees, patients and visitors to use a particular area,” she said. “You can’t have an environment that’s too restrictive.”

“In the future, we’ll see an explosion of refined and user-friendly technology,” Michelman said. “Colleges and universities will develop new academic programs in areas such as homeland security and terrorism and disaster planning that will give us a larger cadre of prepared people to go into security fields. We’ll also see more regulations, guidelines and standards to govern our industry.”