Security breach: Fake doc roams Boston hospitals

Brigham and Women's Hospital is examining its security protocols after an unauthorized woman shadowed surgeons and physicians on rounds without permission. (Photo courtesy of Brigham and Women's)

The strange case of a woman who observed surgeries and attended patient rounds under the false claim of being a doctor in training has led to security concerns at the Boston hospitals she successfully breached.

Cheryl Wang was able to shadow a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston last September by forging recommendation letters, according to an article from The Boston Globe, but she appeared in the hospital again without permission in December. Wang observed surgeries, attended rounds and even helped transport a patient over the course of several days before physicians on staff realized she didn't have authorized access.

That same week, she also entered Massachusetts General Hospital and was caught on her way to Boston Children’s Hospital, according to the article.

Though no one was physically harmed, the situation highlights how hard it can be for large facilities to monitor thousands of patients, family members, clinicians and other staff members on a daily basis, according to the article. The practice, often referred to as "tailgating," is not uncommon and staff frequently find people in parts of the hospital where they’re not authorized to be solely because their colleagues hold the door open for them.

RELATED: Hospitals on the defense: Robots, staff training help beef up security

Hospital leaders are divided on exactly how much security is too much. Many facilities have beefed up security in the wake of specific threats. For instance, Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida, hired armed guards and instituted bag checks in response to a deadly shooting last July. However, some experts note that hospitals should still feel welcoming to patients and their families, and that intensive security may send the wrong message, or in some instances, escalate situations.

In response, some facilities, like four hospitals under Dignity Health, invest in high-tech security solutions like security robots that monitor parking lots for potential threats. Others spend money to improve security and push harder for training protocols that encourage staff members and patients to report issues they witness.

Martin Green, president of the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety, told The Globe he recommends hospitals institute stricter security for areas of a facility that are off-limits to the most people.

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