When Mattaius Brueckl went into work at Victoria General Hospital one April morning, he thought it would be like any other day.
As a protection services officer with Island Health, Brueckl’s job is to provide a safe environment for patients, faculty, visitors and staff. He often responds to calls about aggressive or volatile individuals, patient standby requests, theft investigations, suspicious persons, damage to property and first-aid, among other things.
However, on this day, the View Royal resident received a call from a dispatcher about a suspicious person trying to climb over a fence. With just that information, Brueckl and his partner attended the call and noticed the door to the emergency stairwell leading up to the roof was ajar.
When he stepped inside, he ran into a teenager who was attempting to get onto the roof.
“He was being very evasive with me and I was trying to explain, I’m not the police, I’m not trying to get you in trouble, we’re just trying to help,” Brueckl said. “There was quite a significant risk in his thoughts and things that were going on in his life.”
However Brueckl is in what he calls a “grey” area and doesn’t have the same authority as police officers to demand someone to come with him. Instead, Brueckl must engage in conversation, build a rapport with an individual and establish a level of trust.
After roughly half-an-hour to 45 minutes, Brueckl convinced the teenager to go to the emergency department with him without incident.
Brueckl received an award of distinction for “his compassionate and empathetic handling” of the situation from the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety during a ceremony in Vancouver. It wasn’t until Brueckl found out he won the award that he also discovered the teenager was in medical distress at the time.
“Our protection services officers are required to respond to calls that require both courage and compassion, often in equal measure,” said James Hanson, Island Health vice president operations and support services. “Mattaius, we are proud of your professionalism and your commitment to the safety of everyone we serve at Island Health.”
Despite the accolades, Brueckl admits the situation was a pretty regular occurrence as one of 90 full-time protection services officers, who work in health-care facilities across the Island.
“It’s an honour to have been recognized, but at the same time, there’s so many things that my colleagues do that equally could have been award-worthy,” he said.
A protection services officer for the past five years, as well as a reserve constable with the Saanich Police Department and a member of Saanich Search and Rescue, Brueckl has responded to hundreds of calls ranging from a visitor needs help finding their car in the parking lot to being first on scene after someone has jumped off a parkade at Royal Jubilee Hospital.
Often Brueckl is put in situations where he must strike a balance between making sure nursing staff and patients are safe and building a relationship with someone in crisis.
“Our perception on the job of what it normal is quite skewed. I’ll go into a situation where a person has produced a knife or they’ve assaulted a staff member and it’s just something we deal with calmly,” Brueckl said. “‘I’ll go to work and I won’t know what’s going to happen. That’s what I love about it.”