If you saw Andrew (A.J.) Neely in the hall last month, you may not have recognized him. The normally clean-shaven public safety officer was sporting a beard in honor of “No-Shave” November.
“In November, our department participated in a national cause called ‘No-Shave November’ by donating money to the Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders,” he said. “The premise is to grow awareness by embracing our hair, which many cancer patients lose, and donate the money we would normally spend on grooming products to the Showers Center. Each officer is asked to make a minimum donation of $25. Female officers are participating by painting their nails.”
For Andrew, supporting hospital patients hits close to home. While a student at the University of Akron he suffered his own health crisis and spent a considerable amount of time in the hospital.
“I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease while pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Construction Management Engineering Technology,” he said. “I fell ill during my senior year and required emergency surgery.”
It was during this time – when he was spending a lot of time in hospitals and with caregivers – he had a change of heart about what he wanted to do for a living.
First security job you held – when and where?
Akron Children’s is my first and only job in this field. It’s been a great experience and the staff is very welcoming and wonderful to work with.
When did you start working at the hospital?
I finished the Police Academy at Kent State in May 2012 and began working at Akron Children’s in August.
What shift do you work and what area(s) are you responsible for? Are there issues unique to your shift that other shifts may not see as often?
I am currently working first shift. One of our responsibilities is to make sure the hospital stays secure until the doors open at 5 a.m. We accomplish this by screening everyone who comes to visit.
What’s the No. 1 rule you live by on the job?
Treat everyone the way I would expect to be treated.
Key skills you need to do your job well?
You need to have a teamwork mindset. We face challenging decisions and everyone’s input helps.
How do you handle fear or an uncertain situation? Have you ever felt unsafe?
I have never felt unsafe at the hospital. I have learned to take a deep breath and try to listen before overreacting to a situation. Sometimes an upset parent or patient just wants to tell you their frustration and wants someone to listen.
What are some tips you use to de-escalate a heated situation?
I first try to talk in a lower tone to see if the other party will show signs of de-escalating. I feel the more you raise your voice when giving commands, the more the other party escalates.
What are some simple rules employees can follow to make themselves and their environment safer?
If something doesn’t look right, or is out of the ordinary, don’t be afraid to give us a call. We will check it out – that’s what we’re here for! When walking, share the walk with a co-worker and be aware of your surroundings. If you can’t share a walk, feel free to call Public Safety for an escort.
Is there a family or patient that is especially memorable or made an impact on you?
I met a mom at the information desk whose son recently had surgery for a situation similar to mine. I was able to comfort her and give her tips that I found were helpful during my experience.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
My wife, Heather, also works at Akron Children’s as a registered nurse. We have a German shepherd named Tucker. We love any adventure, whether it’s fishing or taking our dog for a run in the MetroParks.