To protect and serve
Imagine it’s your first week on the job at a hospital, a car speeds up to the Emergency Department and a man jumps out and yells to you for help. His wife is giving birth right there in their car and the man is visibly frightened.
It’s up to you to jump in and assist with the situation.
But, you aren’t a physician. You are a protective services officer. And while you’re not trained in providing healthcare services, you are trained to protect our associates, patients and visitors.
This is exactly what happened to Lukas Althaus, a lieutenant in OhioHealth’s protective services department.
“I was so scared,” says Lukas. “Thank God my training officer was there to help me!”
What Lukas saw that night would become the first of many surreal moments where intuition and training would have to overpower fear and apprehension.
Eight years ago, Lukas started as a third-shift officer at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital. Prior to that, he earned his associate’s degree in police science from Hocking College and went on to graduate from the Ohio Peace Officer Trainee Academy (OPOTA).
A friend alerted Lukas to an opening in Protective Services at OhioHealth and before he knew it, his career had begun — one that would expose him to many interesting, and sometimes unbelievable, situations.
“A lot of times, when I talk about my background and training, people are surprised that OhioHealth Protective Services is recognized by the State of Ohio as a police agency. I am officially recognized as a law enforcement officer.”
Protective Services has the same ranking structure as the police force, and the department focuses on three areas — safety, service and security.
Now working as second shift supervisor at OhioHealth Grant Medical Center, Lukas explains that he has pretty much seen it all — as have the other members of his team. Protective Services is present 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. There are three shifts, and at Grant, there are 21 officers, with four to five officers on duty each shift.
Lukas explains that the very fear that was present on that night, eight years ago, is still there — only now, he’s able to contain it and uses his intuition and experience to guide him.
“We are based in downtown Columbus and Grant is a Level I Trauma Center, so many people with life-threatening situations are sent here,” says Lukas.
He says it’s fairly typical for officers to be called to the Emergency Department entrance because a victim has been pushed out of a car and needs help getting inside. There are also many times when a patient will walk through the doors as a victim of a shooting or stabbing, he says.
“We are trained to handle these crisis situations and know how to not only step in and help, but calm the patient down,” he explains.
While officers make every effort to calm patients down peacefully, in certain instances, restraint is necessary — not as a punishment — but as a way to keep themselves, as well as associates, patients and visitors safe.
And while Lukas has found himself in less than ideal situations, his training has taught him exactly what he should do and how to watch for signs of a potential situation. He and his team also teach this training to clinical staff so that everyone is involved in ensuring a safe environment where healing can take place.
“Emotions are running high in these situations so you have to take that into consideration,” he says. “Believe it or not, protective services officers are a calming presence because we know how to take our patients from a 10 to a two, so-to-speak, and we do so in a very reassuring way.”
“Unless you’re having a baby, no one really wants to come to the hospital. It can be a very intimidating and unnerving environment for our patients and visitors,” says Lukas.
Often times, Lukas is one of the very first people that patients see as they enter through Grant's hospital doors, so providing a calming presence is mandatory.
And while he’s technically a protective services lieutenant, Lukas is also a counselor, a source of support, guidance and information, and even a greeter.
He’s not only here to protect and serve our patients, their families, and our associates, he and his team also protect our reputation as a healthcare system.