The Medical Center will introduce the new security program in November
Walla Walla, WA—K9 programs have been shown to be an effective deterrent to violence in workplace settings, including hospitals.
“An increasing number of hospitals across the nation are now using security dogs to detect contraband, deter violence and help address possible threats,” said Susan Leathers Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Manager at Providence St. Mary Medical Center. “Our sister hospital, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, started the first hospital K9 program in Washington earlier this year and the response from the public and health care workers has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Locally, the program is being funded by the Providence St. Mary Foundation.
Security Officer Michael Smith has been selected as the K9 Program Coordinator. Officer Smith has a background in law enforcement, is a certified crisis intervention negotiator, a licensed private investigator and has served as an instructor for law enforcement defensive tools. In addition, he had experience as a canine handler while working in law enforcement.
In September he will travel to Alabama Canine Law Enforcement Training Center in Northport, Alabama, to be paired with a German Shephard, followed by eight weeks of rigorous training together as partners. Alabama Canine is a leader in the training of security dogs. The owner, Ricky Farley, has trained dogs for more than 1,500 police departments and 28 countries. The operation has a training program specifically for hospital that prioritizes the dogs’ socialization skills. Dogs selected for this tract are friendly and able to function well in a health care environment.
Incidents of violence in health care settings is on the rise nationally. Locally, St. Mary Medical Center also has experienced increasing issues, and has taken steps to ensure the safety of its patients, caregivers and visitors. The addition of the K9 program is part of that strategic work.
“Security dogs offer a very effective deterrent. The very presence of a K9 often will defuse the situation, and prevent an escalation. It is a demonstration of our commitment to safety for our health care workers,” Leathers said. “Our entire Security team looks forward to working with Mike on the launch of our program at St. Mary.”
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