LOCAL FOLKS: NMMC security officers keep the peace

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Security officers at North Mississippi Medical Center don’t carry sidearms.
“You’d be surprised how many people you can talk down without having a weapon on your hip,” said Rodney McCoy, a 40-year-old shift supervisor.
On the other hand, soap is something they can’t do without.
“Hand washing, yes,” said 45-year-old L.T. Foote, a security officer since 2007. “That’s necessary.”
“Wash the skin off your body, too,” said McCoy, who has 13 years of experience. “When I first get home, I take a shower before I play with my kids. You never know what’s on your uniform.”
Cleanliness makes perfect sense. Officers can’t keep others safe if they don’t keep themselves safe.
The absence of sidearms makes sense, too.
“You don’t want to threaten them,” McCoy said. ”We’re interacting with people all the time. You have to have good verbal skills. Body language is important.”
Security officers are trained in the Golden Rule of do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. It’s usually an effective strategy, even during heated moments at the emergency room.
“There’s a lot of stress in the ER,” McCoy said. “If something is going on with a family member, you have people wanting to know what’s going on. They get stressed because they can’t see the patient. We have to be really calm.”
Foote said it’s important to shift approaches to diffuse a situation.
“We take on different roles. We’re not just security,” Foote said. “We may become patient representatives.”
In those cases, officers are empowered to find out what family members want to know.
“Mostly, it’s common sense,” he said. “You have to interact with people without making the situation worse.”
Officers have different postings that change every two hours. The ER is one, and officers need to check out the parking lot and walk through the building. Mobile units go to all NMMC properties.
“We make sure everything is secure,” McCoy said.
“It’s a lot of checking doors, especially after hours,” Foote added.
They never know when they’ll be dispatched to help control a patient who’s coming out of anesthesia.
“Sometimes, they don’t know where they are or why they’re here,” McCoy said.
There also are times when visitors don’t respond to a calm approach, and that’s when the police are called in.
But officers are far more likely to grab a wheelchair and help someone into the hospital than to ask an unruly person to leave.
“Most people know we’re here to help,” McCoy said.
After help is rendered, no one begrudges them a few moments with soap and water.
“Yes, yes,” Foote said. “You’ve got to have good hygiene.”
scott.morris@journalinc.com