Hospital safety professionals always have operated under the sometimes conflicting missions of providing secure facilities for patients and staff while simultaneously maintaining open environments for families, friends and surrounding communities.

It's a difficult balancing act during the best of times. And, given the psychological toll of the country's economic downturn and fraying safety net, these times are hardly good. Moreover, the degree of difficulty is multiplied by media that sometimes carelessly report on hospital safety issues, especially as they relate to violent assaults.

To get a clearer idea of the challenges and how they're being handled, the editors of Health Facilities Management recently collaborated with the American Society for Healthcare Engineering to produce the 2011 Hospital Security Survey, sponsored by ADT Security Services Inc.'s Healthcare Solutions group.

If any top-line conclusions can be drawn, it's that hospital security departments have done a remarkable job adapting to these troubling times and health care organizations have not denied them needed resources, despite other worthy financial priorities.

For instance, while sizable minorities of the respondents reported increases in a number of violent acts, smaller minorities reported decreases in these attacks and the vast majority reported no change at all. Similarly, more than a quarter of respondents said actual and attempted infant abductions have decreased, compared with 1 percent who cited increases.

Overall, hospital safety professionals have maintained the delicate balance between a secure environment and an open one, despite the many challenges of the current climate. For more details on this important survey, please turn to the article on page 21.