“Safety doesn’t just happen – it’s intentional, it’s deliberate and it is our job as managers to be alert and aware in order to protect our staff, colleagues and the countless number of people on our premises every day,” Carlyene Prince-Erickson, director of Employee Education and Leadership Development, said in her opening remarks at the 11th annual Leadership Academy Spring Lecture. “We are very fortunate to have our amazing Police and Security staff here at MGH under the leadership of Bonnie Michelman.”

Michelman, executive director of MGH Police, Security and Outside Services, was the featured speaker at the June 6 program in the Shriners Auditorium. The annual lecture is the culminating event for the Leadership Academy’s academic year, and provides a forum for managers to learn about best practices in leadership. Michelman’s talk focused on “Getting to Safe…Security Strategies and Tools for Leaders in the Complex World of Health Care.”

“We are in an industry where it is endemic to have violence, to have conflict, to have anxiety,” Michelman said. “And while we have some serious situations, we have one of the lowest rates of incidents in the country compared to other hospitals, and that is thanks to all of you. This hospital really is a safe space where people show unbelievable care and compassion daily.”

MGH dispatchers field more than 300,000 calls per year, 25,000 of which are considered to be emergency cases. Whether it is an uncomfortable interaction with a coworker, a frustrated patient or a life-threatening situation, staff are always encouraged to reach out to the hospital’s police and security experts for help. “People have different feelings about what makes them fearful,” Michelman said. “It is very OK to say to someone, ‘You put me in fear,’ or ‘That statement scares me. Can you tell me what you mean by that?’ Then, contact us. We are the experts in threat assessment.”

MGH Police, Security and Outside Services offers several courses via HealthStream for employees to better equip themselves to deal with varying safety situations in the workplace. They include Active Shooter, Workplace Conflict: Violence Prevention, SAVE (Security Awareness and Vigilance for Everyone) and MOAB (Management of Aggressive Behavior.) The department also offers a myriad of in-person, customized staff trainings on a variety of topics.

“If you haven’t mentally conditioned yourself to be able to do what you need to do in the midst of conflict, then I guarantee that in the sheer panic of the moment you won’t remember to do what is needed,” said Michelman. “These courses and trainings can help with that mental conditioning.”

During the presentation, Michelman and Rob Langhorne, investigator in MGH Police, Security and Outside Services, demonstrated difficult workplace scenarios, reviewed when and how to contact Police and Security, and gave examples of the best ways to manage contentious patient interactions. One consistent theme throughout the discussion was the importance of being clear with language, not tentative.

“When I came here 27 years ago, I saw a lot of bullying and aggression from employees,” said Michelman. “We’ve come a long way from that. We cannot, and should not, tolerate it. As leaders we have to be part of the solution.”

Michelman added, “At the end of the day, what can we do? Only the things we can do. Don’t ignore the cues. Words are only a small percent of our communication. This is why the nonverbals and paralanguage – tone of voice, volume of voice, latent part of speech – are so important. Always trust your instincts and listen to how something is being said, not what is said. The bottom line is we’re all in this together.”

MGH Police and Security can be reached 24/7 at 617-726-2121 for main campus concerns or 617-726-5400 for the Charlestown Navy Yard.

Read more articles from the 06/15/18 Hotline issue.