Colleen Kucera

The Kucera File


  • Executive director of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety
  • Certified Association Executive through the American Society of Association Executives


  • Developed and implemented a three-year strategic plan with the IAHSS board of directors focused on education, brand awareness and expanding the IAHSS sphere of influence
  • Launching the first two IAHSS eLearning courses in 2018 as training for the Advanced- and Supervisor-level health care security officer certifications
  • Redesigned the structure of the IAHSS Annual Conference & Exhibition educational sessions and achieved record attendance levels


  • University of Dayton (Ohio), bachelor of science in accounting with a certificate in international business

As security becomes a challenge for health care facilities in these turbulent times, the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) is helping them to raise their performance. This month, IAHSS Executive Director Colleen Kucera discusses the organization and its programs.

How many members does the IAHSS have and what are the requirements?

IAHSS reached the level of 2,300 members for the first time in 2018. We have four categories of membership. The majority of members are professional members —  managers and directors working in a leadership role in a health care facility with security responsibility, although they may be proprietary or contract staff. Associate members also work in a health care facility in a security function, but do not have supervisory responsibility. Partner members are health care security and safety product and services providers. We also recently introduced a new health care stakeholder membership that is intended for health care professionals who have an interest in and reliance on security.

What are some of the key challenges facing your members?

IAHSS members are juggling a number of challenges unique to the health care and the security fields.

Consolidation within the health care field leads to staffing and budgetary complications. Security is a nonrevenue-generating function, so the justification for continued investment continues to be an uphill battle. Security directors are challenged to provide evidence-based data, benchmarking information and sound business rationale to demonstrate the need for and value of the security-related investments. 

Technology continues to change and improve at an unprecedented pace. It is challenging to stay informed of the latest technology trends, let alone to implement them. Security directors must continually monitor and update the life cycles and road maps for all security-related technology. 

The workplace violence issue in health care is starting to garner more attention. There have been changing dynamics in recent years that impact the levels of violence, which include the opioid crisis and the lack of behavioral health facilities. The issue is complex, and we’ve heard from members that, in many cases, there have been increases in both reporting and actual incidents. We welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with both clinical and nonclinical partners to address this issue.

Staffing in the security function also continues to be a challenge. The applicant pool is shrinking, and it can be hard to retain professionals at this pay scale. Many security leaders use the IAHSS Basic, Advanced and Supervisor levels of certification to provide a career path.

What were some takeaways from the “Mitigating the Risk of Workplace Violence in Health Care Settings” research released by your Foundation last year?

The IAHSS Foundation collaborated with the Security Industry Association to develop this research to provide information and tools to security professionals tackling the growing problem of workplace violence. The research discusses the unique environment in health care and how the stressors and other risk factors contribute to the problem. While there is no one right answer for addressing this problem at any facility, there are a number of tools and resources available to help mitigate workplace violence. Ultimately, there needs to be a culture of  vigilance throughout all levels of a health care organization.

What was the motivation behind your release of the guideline on “Collaborating with Law Enforcement” last year?

The IAHSS Council on Guidelines has been writing guidelines for more than a decade.  The group has developed a work plan to write new guidelines and revise existing guidelines each year. They are able to adjust the plan, if necessary, based on what is happening in the industry.

This particular guideline had been on their to-do list for a long time and was intended to provide guidance on a range of topics, from orienting corrections staff to practicing responses from law enforcement. When the incident between a nurse and law enforcement in Utah occurred last July, the need became more immediate. Our current president, Kevin Tuohey, is fond of saying, “It’s too late to introduce yourself to your external responders in the middle of an incident.” The guideline emphasizes the need for health care security and local law enforcement to understand each other’s roles, to meet regularly and to train together. IAHSS and The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) released a joint statement about the incident in Utah with a reference to the new guideline.

When is the next revision of your “Security Design Guidelines for Healthcare Facilities” and what are some of the recent changes in the document?

The IAHSS design guidelines project was started by our Council on Guidelines about eight years ago. The first edition was published in 2012 and sections of the document were included in the Facility Guidelines Institute’s 2014 FGI Guidelines. The council determined that our design guidelines should be updated every four years in between versions of the FGI Guidelines. Our second edition was published in 2016 and was updated with input from the ENA in a few areas, including emergency department (ED) design. The 2016 version includes new language on exam and interview spaces, EDs, behavioral/mental health treatment areas and decontamination rooms, among others.

How have your alliances with associations such as the American Hospital Association, the American Society for Healthcare Engineering, the American Organization of Nurse Executives and the ENA informed your guidance to hospitals?

When I joined IAHSS as its executive director more than three years ago, it quickly became clear to me that IAHSS had an impressive amount of research, experience and knowledge that was largely unknown and underutilized outside of the security profession.

While we’ve had varying levels of involvement with other health care associations over the decades, the board and I knew that we needed to re-engage.

Since 2015, we have shared presentations at the annual conferences of these various organizations and they have presented at ours. These interactions led to increased collaborations. The takeaway is that we are all better working together, rather than in silos.

What are some additional challenges as your members look to the future?

Challenges in the ever-changing technology trends and maintaining appropriate levels of trained staff will continue well into the future. Health care organizations likely will continue to shift from less of an open environment to a more access-controlled environment, and security will play a key role in those transitions. 

The most crucial upcoming challenge is in meeting the demand for evidence-based decision-making. Obtaining reliable, defensible data is key. IAHSS is working to standardize data elements to assist in making this a reality. This type of data could dictate the staffing and technology that is needed.

Health care security professionals also need to ensure that they are engaged in the design process. Security principles can assist in mitigating risks without negating the patient-focused environment of care that defines health care.