Success Story: Learning from a Protection Services Officer

The South Island MSA was lucky enough to welcome Devin Vessey to its most recent Virtual Doctors’ Lounge.  As the South Island Protection Services Supervisor, Devin shared invaluable information learned over his 17 years of experience in security, fire and first-aid.

A PSO’s primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of staff and members of the public.  This can mean getting people who are causing disturbances or danger away from the hospital until the police arrive, putting out actual fires (especially in summer), playing critical roles in setting up the Emergency Operations Centre, and ensuring traffic and crowd control when needed.

Devin mentioned that he’s noticed an increase in the number of incidents as well as an increase in the level of volatility of people since the beginning of the pandemic.  While PSOs primarily use tactical communications skills to de-escalate a situation, force can be an effective last resort.

Weapons such as a blade or bear spray means that PSOs need to increase the distance between themselves and the patient.  As Devin shared, “it is easier to manage issues when we have space.”  If you see a PSO interacting with someone, please ensure that you give them a wide radius to be able to do their work successfully.

PSOs are always looking for ways to better protect staff and the public.  One valuable tool would be instituting a Code Silver policy, which was developed in the U.S. in response to firearms and allows for rapid lockdown to take place.  The designation of Peace Officers has been requested, which would expand the role and responsibility that PSOs currently have.

For community-based clinics, Devin recommended Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design as a way of making offices safer for physicians, staff, and patients.  Instituting codewords, having the police on speed dial, and having a buddy system are also good way to ensure solid communications and awareness of dangerous situations.

As noted by Dr. Fred Voon, the work done by the Protection Services Officers is done with great care, and they are an integral part of the health care system on Vancouver Island.  So next time you see a PSO walking down the hall, be sure to thank them:  Your workplace is safer thanks to these essential team members.


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