Episode #24 of the Charged podcast
About the Episode
While completing her master’s in criminal justice at Northeastern University, Bonnie Michelman, MBA, CPP, CHPA, became fascinated by the security industry, a growing field with paths to transition from executive protection to investigations to technology. Over the years, she has worked hard to build her credibility and gain experience, which has earned her extensive leadership experience, particularly within healthcare. Though the industry is a dynamic one, there is room for improvement in terms of the diversity of its workforce. In this episode, Bonnie discusses the importance of increasing diversity to enrich the functionality of the security industry.
About the Guest
Bonnie Michelman, MBA, CPP, CHPA, executive director of Police, Security and Outside Services, has dedicated her career to improving and expanding the functionality of the security department at Massachusetts General Hospital. The department has won the coveted International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) award three times for Best Department in the Country. After over 30 years in the security industry, she has extensive leadership and security management experience.
Bonnie serves as the security consultant for Partners HealthCare. She has been president of International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS), the International Security Management Association (ISMA) and ASIS International, the three largest international security organizations. She is also on the board of directors for the Anti-Defamation League. She teaches in the graduate and undergraduate programs at the Northeastern University College of Criminal Justice.
In 2016, she was named one of the “most influential people in security” by Security Magazine. In 2017, she was the recipient of the Karen Marquez Honors Award, which recognizes a female security professional who consistently works towards improving the security industry.
Bonnie earned a BA in government and sociology from Clark University. She earned her MBA from Bentley College and an MS in criminal justice from Northeastern University. She is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and a Certified Healthcare Protection Administrator (CHPA).
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Bonnie Michelman has spent over 30 years in the security industry. After receiving her masters degree in criminal justice and an MBA, she worked her way up the ranks to eventually become the executive director of Police, Security and Outside Services at Mass General. Within the first year of her leadership, the department saw a significant decrease in the number of incidents at the hospital. In 2016, Bonnie was named one of the “most influential people in security” by Security Magazine. And her department has been recognized multiple times as the best in the country.
But it hasn’t always been easy. As a woman in a male-dominated field, she sees the importance of offering mentorship for other women who want to succeed in criminal justice. And she believes a diverse workplace is essential to be productive and successful in the future.
In addition to her position at Mass General, Bonnie also serves as the security consultant for Partners HealthCare. She has been president of the three largest international security organizations and currently sits on the board of directors for the Anti-Defamation League. She also teaches in the graduate school at Northeastern University and lectures and consults nationally.
Q: So, welcome, Bonnie.
A: Thank you.
Q: So, I’m so curious to hear about you and your career. When you finished your degree in criminal justice you were a young woman entering the industry. What did you expect and where did you think that life would take you?
A: Well, I did my first master’s degree because I was on my way to law school and couldn’t afford it. Northeastern offered me a superb degree with a teaching fellowship as well. While I was there I got exposed to the whole industry of private security. I saw how fast growing it was. There were incredible avenues to it from executive protection to investigations to technology. There was a lot of money to be made in the field and, frankly, it was not a very diverse industry and needed some more people and more diversity.
I was fascinated by it. I did some undercover work and some other things while I was in graduate school, and afterward decided to embark on a career in the private security arena, combining it with my interest in business, which is why I got an MBA, and decided to forego law school. I figured there were a lot of lawyers in New England.
Q: And I’m wondering when you graduated and when you’re beginning your career did you have expectations?
A: I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I first graduated, and interestingly enough I was waitressing during graduate school at an IHOP, International House of Pancakes, midnight shifts. It was the only time I could work, because I was teaching at night and going to school during the day. And a guy used to come in every night around 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, and he would be sitting and working, and one night I just sat down with him, I got to know him, and I said, “What are you doing for work?” And he said, “I’m a sales manager of a security company.”
At that point in time I was just graduating and I said, “I want to come work there.” So, I went to work designing and selling security technology, which was not exactly what I wanted to do, but it was a great thing to do, being young and female and not particularly exposed to the industry, because I gained a lot of credibility doing that. And I learned a lot and decided that is not exactly where I wanted to put my eggs, so I moved into a corporate security environment after that.
Q: And initially when you were looking for jobs, did you find that people were finding out that you were a young woman and maybe making judgments or you faced a barrier because of that?
A: I wouldn’t say I faced a barrier, but people were a little surprised. And I worked very hard to gain credibility quickly. I got, I was one of the first women to get what is the international certification, the the most coveted certification for our organization called a CPP, Certified Protection Personnel. It’s kind of analogous to a CPA for accountants. So I did things like that so that I think I could feel more confident, and I think people felt more confident about my credentials as well as my skills.
But I definitely had to prove myself and I did that probably in many ways more so than I would have if I had been older or male in the field. But I tried really hard not to focus on that. I was very, very enthusiastic about the industry. There was so much to learn. There was so much going on. It was absolutely revolutionizing because of what was going on in the world, so it was a tremendous time to get involved.
Q: It seems very savvy to me. You saw that you needed to get a little bit of street cred almost at the beginning. Was there someone who was counseling you to do that?
A: I don’t remember anyone counseling. I remember a few people, friends of mine in graduate school, whose career took a bit of a different path and I didn’t want mine to go in that, into that pathway. I was very ambitious. I am a very competitive person, so I wanted to move ahead pretty quickly. I wanted to kind of learn all I could learn and be exposed to as much as I could.
And I really loved leadership, so I knew I wanted to go into management and leadership as quickly as I could.
Q: So how did you approach getting into management and leadership?
A: I went to work, as I said, after that first technology job I got a job for a Fortune 500 company which is now EMC, but at the time was called Data General, and I was a Security Manager there in the corporate headquarters, and that was a big job. It was my first big management foray. I had about 60 people, and I was very young. They were all older than I was, for sure. And it was a great way to learn about a lot of aspects of business and security.
And I really enjoyed it, went through some hurdles, but found I really loved the leadership part. What I didn’t love was the rate of speed the business was moving there. I wasn’t working for a person who was all that innovative, and I got a little bored. So, I looked for another job. I really wanted to head up a department. And I was, at the time was looking in the newspaper, because that’s where people found jobs at the time, and there was a blind ad for a director of security at a hospital, and I thought, “I watch Saint Elsewhere and all the hospital shows. I like them. I can do this.”
So, I was interviewed by a very innovative vice president who took a leap on me, and it was Newton-Wellesley Hospital. So I went there, first as director of security and safety and a few years later got promoted to vice president of operations there.
Q: And I’m wondering as you’re talking about this, what was it like to be a young person directing peers who were a lot of times, it sounds like, older than you?
A: You know I think leadership is born and I think it’s learned. I believe that it’s both. And I do think I have the leadership gene in me, so I knew a bit of how to take command and control -- But a few people definitely put me through my paces, there is no doubt about that. And you can tell people until you’re blue in the face how good you are, but until you show them and until you let them know you’re going to keep showing up and being ready to play, no matter how hard it is, that’s when people start really respecting you.
Q: And are there, were there incidents or conflicts that you think back on that that is the point when you proved yourself or when you could feel the tides change?
A: No, I can’t think of any catalyst for that. I mean I can remember very much trying to look like a guy. I would wear gray suits. I would wear my hair up in a tight bun. And then a few years into my career when I realized I could be who I was and still be good, that changed. And when that changed, I think I felt some relief.
I never wanted to think about being a minority in this field, even though I definitely was, both being young and being female. In many ways, the being young was harder first. I mean I was a vice president at Newton-Wellesley at 28 years old, so that was young. But I had had a roommate in graduate school and she went into the same field, and frankly everything that went wrong or every time she had a bad day or a conflict with someone she blamed it on the fact that she was female, and that did not do her well. And I never wanted to be like that and I never wanted people, frankly, to notice my gender. I wanted them to notice my competency.
A: The technology was exploding. Corporations were all getting very sophisticated security programs, security operations. They were investing in that. They were investing in investigations and executive protection and strong protective strategies really what is now called enterprise risk, they were doing that in a less, a less mature way, but they were doing it.
Also things were happening in our global world with more conflict and in our communities violence was exploding, and that changed the face of private security as well. There were also a lot of universities and academic programs that were starting to come onboard with bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees in security and certifications so that the whole realm of sophistication for the industry changed rapidly.
It wasn’t just people walking around with what we used to call Detex clocks to hit keys and the old vision of a security guard walking around. It was educated bachelor’s degree people, like I have here, who really were invested and wanted to come into this field.
Q: And so when you took the helm at Newton-Wellesley you’re this young person in this leadership role. What happened from there, and what did you learn as this young VP?
A: I learned about corporate politics, in all the jobs I’ve had, certainly there. I learned about trying to create and design and grow departments into something great. And having to constantly think about tightening the belt because of budget constraints, and there were significant healthcare reimbursement issues in those days, so that was very difficult. I had to lay off several dozen people in one week.
By that time I had just finished my MBA and was getting some offers from other places, and I was not loving the fact that programs I had built up were starting to be somewhat decimated by some budget constraints. And I took a job as a security executive for a large regional security company where I had 60 operations I was responsible for all over New England, from nuclear facilities to universities to high tech facilities to hospitals to hotels, etc. and about 1200 people in my organization. It was a great work, because it really combined my business interest with my security expertise and interest, but it didn’t have much time for a life.
Q: I can see that. And I’m surprised to hear, it’s interesting to think about going from being in charge of a large hospital where there is a lot of different things happening in that one place, to go from there to then managing many, many different places and different kinds of places. So, what was it like to oversee these very different kinds of organizations that I imagine have different security concerns?
A: It was very difficult, in part because it was a contract security agency, so it was hard to get the tenure and the retention and the loyalty sometimes of people, because they weren’t able to be paid very much. Often the client would dictate what they would pay, and sometimes they didn’t understand the need for true investment in security.
Geographically it was difficult. I would be in central New Hampshire and then running down to southern Rhode Island for a problem happening for a site down there. And when I first started there were no cell phones, so it really made it quite interesting. I think back, I don’t know how that happened, how I could do that. But I had a great staff and we had a great team and we were in it together, and yeah there was a lot of stress, you’re worried about losing clients, you’re worried about incidents happening, you’re worried about making sure that you had the right people doing the right things, but it was, it was a great job and I learned a lot.
Q: Yeah. It is funny to think about doing this without technology. I imagine if you’re on the road there is sort of dark time where you don’t know what is happening.
A: There was--you learn where payphones are. And now I don’t even know where there, if a payphone even exists.
Q: From there what happened after you’re managing these many, many people?
A: So, Mass General, the headhunter that, for the director of Police and Security, had reached out to me and asked, said they were, they had heard about me. I was very involved by that time in the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety. And they said they wanted to interview me, and though I was flattered I wasn’t really interested in switching jobs, and I said no and I actually gave them some names of other people around the country.
And a few months passed, and my job was getting more and more stressful, and I actually went to a retreat one weekend with a guy who was a PhD in Education and took a bunch of people up to a nice little inn in New Hampshire to look at our values and if they were synergistic with our work, and if we were balancing our life correctly. And by the end of the weekend, I realized I didn’t think I was balancing my life very well at all. And though I loved my job, it probably wasn’t the healthiest in some ways, and I wasn’t able to do some other things I wanted to.
And the Monday after I got back from that weekend coincidentally the headhunter called back and said, “Mass General still hasn’t found who they’re looking for, and they would like to interview you.” And I said, “Okay.” So, I came in for an interview and I wound up kind of falling in love with what I was hearing. I did about 14 interviews here on one day and met the most inspiring people and just saw the passion and the energy and the excitement and the inspiration that everybody had.
Q: So I know when you came here you did a lot of work to sort of change the way the department worked. Can you talk a little bit about that?
A: Sure. The first year, a year especially, year or two, were difficult. People did not have very good feelings about the Police and Security Department. At that time, I had 65 people, just police and security. Now I have about 350 and involves some other departments as well.
People had been hired who were people’s nephews or golf caddies. There really hadn’t been a great criteria for who was being hired, what the trajectory and the plan for the department was, what the goals were. There weren’t very high standards. And people weren’t working very hard for the most part, to be honest.
I came in and two of the people, senior people, that were here had both gone for the job and not gotten it, so I didn’t know how they were going to feel. One is still here as my associate director and I couldn’t live without him, and the other retired a few years ago and I felt equally the same about him.
There were some good people in the department. They just need to be, they just needed to be kind of retrained, rerouted. They needed to feel like, feel good about themselves. So we created lots of new standards, lots of new functions. I asked the hospital to take a, to take a risk on some things I wanted to do. We put in some state-of-the-art technology. We got people trained in de-escalation and violence in the right way. We got rid of some people that really shouldn’t have been and didn’t want to be here and hired some people with excellent attitudes and some great skills.
And slowly but surely the department turned around to one that I couldn’t be more proud of today, one that is highly regarded by everyone in the hospital and people come to us for all kinds of things and people stay. Our retention is about 11 years per person, which is very high. I have 10 direct reports. Nine have been with me over 22 years and the other over 12, so we’ve been a pretty intact team for a long time.
And it’s always a work in progress. The risks change. the vulnerabilities change. Just when we think we are kind of smooth sailing something occurs, whether it be the Boston Marathon bombing or a very violent act or a situation in the research arena. But that keeps us on our toes.
And we’re constantly trying to infuse our own expertise with outside expertise if we need to make sure that we are constantly moving in very innovative directions.
Q: I’m curious about one thing you said. You said when you came into the department some of the people who worked there really didn’t feel good about themselves or their job. How did you make sense of that and what did you do to combat it?
A: They didn’t have a lot of pride and there were some people who I felt really had the meat and potatoes. I felt like they were great people and they had just never been either treated very well or given important and valuable things to do or were not shown what was important about the mission, so I got them involved in lots of projects. I put everybody on committees working together so there would be better bonding of the teams. I got people involved in multidisciplinary committees with other departments so people could get to know the folks in our department.
It took a while. It didn’t happen overnight, but people really began to feel very differently and get very energized, and they were honest with me. And I was very transparent with them. I am a person who believes in full transparency. I spent time with people and said, “What will make your job feel better? What will be more enriching to you?” Or I would let them know what I felt they needed to do to be even more valuable to MGH.
Q: It sounds like you empowered them to have a little more ownership over what they were doing.
A: Definitely. People need to have ownership. They want it.
Q: I imagine transparency is an important part of being a leader. How have you approached transparency with your staff?
A: I think people tend to avoid having difficult conversations or sharing with people things that aren’t positive, and I think that people need to hear that, because that is the only way they can then change or improve, and that is also the only way they know where you’re coming from and what you believe and what you want and that you’re really trying to help prepare them and support them in every endeavor. So, I really believe that instead of keeping silent, it’s important to let people know what you can do, but also what you can’t do, what is going well, but what needs improvement.
And we really try to hire for attitude. We certainly look for skills and experience and expertise, but we have taken chances on people that haven’t had a lot of experience, maybe had a bachelor’s degree and were very smart and had been very successful in another career, but we just had this instinct that they would be a really good add for the kinds of things we do, that they would be superb with customer service, and they care about patients and they had a lot of compassion and they were really good multitaskers and they probably could manage crises very well.
Q: Are there any particular skills that you look for? I’m curious how you’ve honed that instinct?
A: We look at people’s success and accomplishments at the places they have been. Sometimes they haven’t been at too many places if they’re right out of college, but we can even look at that. I mean if somebody has done very well in college and worked while they went to college that says something about them. If somebody has been promoted at other places they have worked that says something about them. If somebody can describe something that made them feel really accomplished and fulfilled at a previous employment or even at a volunteer job as a coach or something like that that says something about them.
I look for people who really I think will fit into this culture. This is a unique culture. Healthcare is unique. It’s emotional. It’s not black and white. It’s not like a normal corporation where you can keep people in and keep people out and have rules. You have to be in the gray sometimes and you have to recognize that people who may be very difficult to deal with have to be treated with the same love and respect and dignity that any world leader or Tom Brady or anybody else is treated with.
Q: Yeah. I think people don’t always realize that the hospital is this very public space in a way that you don’t find in a lot of other places.
A: It is. We are one of the only industry sectors that is wide open, we have to embrace everyone. It’s a very unique and intense environment. It’s very emotional. And people require a lot of TLC, because we never know the shoes they are walking in, what news they have gotten, how much pain they’re in, how much fear they’re in, etc.
Q: Are there other challenges that you think are unique to this industry?
A: I think yes. I think being that open place where you want people to feel comfortable and safe coming in, but we really want to be very well protected, we wrestle with whether or not to have metal detectors, which we have chosen not to, we wrestle with how visible security should be, we wrestle with methodologies and tools we should use or not use. We don’t have firearms, because we do not feel that would be safe for a lot of behavioral health patients to be around. We don’t use tasers, because I don’t think we need to.
And the other thing I worry about, and I mention this to our beloved people in the C Suite here a lot, is I worry about people getting complacent. So I always feel it’s our job to keep people on the right part of the continuum of security so that when an incident happens, when the Boston Marathon happened or when we had a shooting unfortunately happen here, people go on the far end where they’re fearful, they’re scared, maybe even overreacting, and I’ve seen corporations around the country overreact during times like this. But then after that occurs and time passes people can go back to the other end of this, of the continuum, which is complacency.
And it’s really important that we’re not complacent, that people are empowered and educated about protecting their environment and themselves. Not that they have to think about it all the time, but if I have everyone somewhat empowered and educated, which we try to do, I’ve got 28,000 people looking out for the environment, not just my small staff.
Q: One thing you mentioned earlier that I wanted to ask a little bit more about--de-escalation. Can you talk about what that is and why it’s important?
A: Yes. So, people come in here oftentimes very upset. They are either anxious over healthcare they are going to be getting or need or their family members are going to be getting or need, or they come in here in an altered state. That may be altered state from a psychiatric illness, it may be an altered state from drugs or alcohol, but people tend to be escalated when they’re here, even if it’s just extreme anxiety.
I remember before my mom passed she was in another hospital and I went to visit her one day, and I realized they hadn’t been taking care of her, they hadn’t fed her, they hadn’t given her meds, and I got extremely upset. And that’s not usually like me. I can usually keep my cool, but it was my mother and it was clear that I couldn’t keep my cool in that situation. And I think a lot of people who normally are very rational, kind, nice people aren’t always so in the healthcare setting.
And then you mix that with people who come in with intent to cause harm or be combative or be menacing, perhaps they have had trouble with the law, perhaps they have been in gangs, perhaps they have been on drugs that could produce some effects on them. But we have to constantly be able to deescalate people.
We try to do it as much as we can verbally to help people be able to be a little bit more comfortable so that we can treat them and treat them well. But there are occasions when we can’t just do it verbally and people need to be physically deescalated. We try to minimize those as much as possible.
Q: Yeah. And before it gets to that point, what are the practices?
A: We have a full program called Management of Aggressive Behavior, MOAB, here. We offer it to all the employees, and many have taken it, nurses go through it, our emergency physicians go through it. It’s a really amazing program. But when I brought it in here, and I brought it in soon after I came. We saw a decrease in physical restraints by about 85% and we saw injuries go down by 100%.
So, people learned how to tell what stage of conflict someone is in and what to do verbally and nonverbally, even with body language, even with tone of voice, rate of speech, volume of voice, to help people kind of get control of their emotions. Because people don’t want to get out of control for the most part, and you can often help them to get back in control, but people don’t realize how to do that.
Q: Yeah, I think that is an interesting part of it. I think the story you were telling, we all see ourselves as these rational people, but then these moments of extreme emotion, whether it’s fear or sadness or uncertainty, it’s easy to get lost.
A: Right. I call it the line. We all have a line that we go from rational to irrational, and most of us our line is very high and we may never see it, but healthcare tends to bring lines down for people, and you just, you can see the manifestations of people who are even just waiting for a long period of time. Their breathing gets shallow. They start sweating. Their face turns red. They start moving a lot. And it’s tough stuff to see. So, it’s really important to identify what stage of conflict someone is in and be able to help them deescalate before they get to the next advanced stage.
Q: Are you finding that, is the atmosphere changing as things outside of the hospital are changing? It feels like just our general environment is a little more tense. Are you seeing that come into the hospital?
A: I think with what is going on in the country and the world people are very scared and far differently than they were years gone by. I think when you turn the TV on every night and you see shootings in schools or in theaters or in malls, and you see what is going on in our government with the conflict and the lack of civility there, and particularly if you work in healthcare you’re hearing about other incidents in healthcare across the country, it creates a different threshold for you. You become much more concerned.
And certainly hospitals are seeing that throughout, given the number of behavioral health patients and other people that they have to serve, often without enough space, just like we have not enough space in our Emergency Department or in our acute psychiatry area, to treat the people that we need to treat that want to come here or need to come here.
There is not enough psychiatric facilities for people to go to sometimes, so you can have people for days if not weeks at a time in our Emergency Department. Well, that would make anyone escalate, no matter who they are or how rational they may be.
Q: I’m curious too, you’ve talked about your career and progressing up the ladder and you’re very motivated and successful. What are the components in your toolbox that have helped you to be successful?
A: I would say networking is one. I have spent a lot of my time being involved in volunteer professional associations. I have been privileged enough to be president of the three largest ones and that was an incredible amount of work, but an amazing honor and I learned more than I could have learned in five different academic degrees.
So, I think having the right network and a toolbox of people that I have friends and colleagues all over the world that I can call on and do call on to say, “What do you do about this? How would you approach this problem? Have you had this occur?” And I certainly get data from these associations on things that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel about or can see what might work or not. That is number one.
Certainly strong education. I combined two degrees without really planning to do so, the MBA and my master of science and criminology and criminal justice, and those were really great degrees to get. But as I hire people too or even people that I’ve hired that don’t have their bachelor’s yet, I think it doesn’t necessarily matter exactly what degree you get, but I think going, going through college, having that experience, learning from other people. So, I think academics, that background has been important.
I think understanding state of the art technology and tools is very important. The technology revolution in the security world has been unbelievable. It’s very important that you are at least technically proficient in some ways to understand how those tools can help you, whether it be for intelligence, whether it be for data and analysis.
We have, for example, here a very sophisticated computer-aided dispatch system. We get 315,000 calls a year in our security dispatch centers. We have a really sophisticated incident report software for our incident reporting system so that I can immediately see on Wednesdays who has got the most problems or when the ED is having their biggest problem and where it is.
And the fourth component would be constantly learning, going through whether it be certifications or just going to seminars and finding out what is new out there, because this is a field that just is constantly evolving and changing. So, thinking about learning what you need to learn on new vulnerabilities.
I mean 20 years ago none of us really knew much about cybersecurity and now we all have to.
Q: Yeah. I am wondering. When you thought about building your network did it happen organically or did you do it thoughtfully?
A: I would love to say I planned it and did it thoughtfully, but I think I did it organically. I’ve always been a very social person, so I did love these associations. And I loved learning from other people and being with other people and working on things with them. So then I got more and more involved and the more involved you get, the more people want you to do things, so they would say, “Why don’t you run for chapter office? Why don’t you run for national committee chair? Why don’t you get involved in the board?”
So, it kind of happened organically and then I think I found the value of that network, it has been so rich throughout my career, but I would also say the network here, so having and knowing and really cultivating relationships with lots of people outside of my department that I can call on, that I can buddy up with, that I can work synergistically with has been extremely important. And I have taken a lot of time to build those relationships. You can’t work in a silo.
Q: Yeah. And as a young woman in the field were there those points where you felt roadblocks because of who you were?
A: I can’t say I was discriminated against a lot, no, at least not that I knew of, although I did try to get a job in a prison in Iowa, and the head person there told me he wouldn’t hire me because I was a female. That was probably smart, because it was a pretty tough place.
But no, I think, I know people have said things and I know people have probably thought things when anyone who is a minority in any kind of industry probably feels that, but I have chosen to ignore that.
I have not chosen to focus on that, and I have hoped that people would kind of see through that again by getting to know me. So that is the other reason I think I have cultivated relationships with people so intently. I really have tried not to allow it to sort of drive me. I was always against creating a women in security group in these organizations and now the largest organization has created over the last several years a women in security group, and it’s been wonderful.
I mean it’s really helped recruit more people to the field and it has helped them to understand some of the skill sets and the, and to navigate through an industry that has predominantly not been very rich with females. When I was president of the largest security organization there were only 6% females in a 40,000 person organization. And in my last presidency, which is a small but very elite international security organization, there were only about nine females in the whole organization when I was president two years ago.
Q: Wow. You don’t encounter many groups that are that extreme, I think, to one side.
A: It’s changing. It’s changing. I mean we need much more diversity than there has been. This field was, years ago, populated with former FBI and Secret Service and CIA guys, and they did amazing work, white guys, and now we’re diversifying it with people from different cultures and certainly females and people from different backgrounds. We need people with IT backgrounds and risk backgrounds and government relations background.
So there is lots of richness to the industry becoming so much more diverse.
Q: Yeah. And I know you’ve been a leader here in the hospital to increase the diversity of the workforce that you’re overseeing, can you talk a little bit about that?
A: I have worked on the, the president’s Diversity Committee for many, many years. I have tried to help both my department and the support services in general look at who they are hiring, how they’re retaining people, perhaps from different backgrounds, how they’re promoting, if there is the right promotional and career tracks.
In my own department, we’ve had a Diversity Committee where we really got into very honest conversations about how people that might have been a minority in the department felt. When I first started here there was very few people of color in the department. There were, there was only one woman.
And there wasn’t a lot of diversity in age in the department. And we have changed all that. We are proud—we have 26 languages spoken in the department fluently. We have a lot of people from a lot of different countries. And we have really tried to expand not only who we’re hiring but how we are ensuring that our staff relates to patients and patient visitors so that they feel comfortable when they may not know the language, or they may feel more comfortable talking to somebody that looks like them about a difficult situation.
Q: One final question. When you think of all these things that you’ve done over the years what are you the most proud of?
A: I think I am the most proud of the people that have shared with me that I really influenced their careers and made them into better professionals, and I have seen go on to get promotions. I love coaching people and I am very, very proud of that. I am also very proud of the work that our department does, and it’s so far beyond me.
And the people in this department that work so hard and do it with such compassion when it’s not always easy to do. And the reputation that we have from Peter Slavin all the way down, which I know you can lose in a moment, but we’ve really worked very hard to build it up, and I feel very happy about that.
Q: Well, thank you so much, Bonnie. Before I let you go I have my final five questions. What is the best advice you have ever gotten?
A: Be yourself. Be who you are.
Q: The name of this podcast is Charged. What does that word mean to you?
A: Energy, enthusiasm, passion.
Q: How do you recharge?
A: Spending time with friends, doing fun things, spending time outside. Hiking with my dog, my husband.
Q: When and where are you happiest?
A: At the beach, outside. I have a house in Maine, walking on the beach.
Q: And what rituals help you have a successful day?
A: Spending time with people I work with, just checking in, sometimes hearing something funny or saying something funny, laughing about something together, celebrating little things. Doing something fun maybe after work. Watching sports. I’m a big sports person, so I have season tickets to the Red Sox. So those are the things that make me happy.
Q: Thank you. Thank you so much, Bonnie. It’s been wonderful talking to you and hearing about the field of security.
A: My pleasure. Thank you very much.