For several days, a middle-aged woman who claimed to be a doctor in training roamed the halls of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, dressed in scrubs, asking questions at a lecture, attending patient rounds, and observing surgical procedures, according to a report in the Boston Globe.

A former surgical resident who had been dismissed from a program in New York City, Cheryl Wang, 42, blended in with the circulating mass of medical personnel, slipping into restricted areas and suggesting she had connections to an attending doctor.

The woman’s ability to enter restricted operating room suites without an identification badge shows how difficult it can be to enforce security in institutions that teem with thousands of patients, families, and staff each day, according to the article.

The incident also highlights a security problem called “tailgating.” As is the practice at many hospitals, Brigham operating room staff members hold their identification badges in front of an electronic card reader to gain access to surgery suites. According to video surveillance and staff accounts, the woman tagged along behind employees during shift changes, slipping in as groups of operating room staff held the door for one another.

The hospital told the Globe that it has strengthened its policy for allowing observers into its 47 operating rooms. Physicians sponsoring a visitor are now required to verify with a student’s educational institution that the student “is in good standing’’—a safety step that wasn’t taken in Wang’s case. The hospital said it also plans to educate staff about the dangers of tailgating.

Nurses have complained about security at Brigham in the past. The issue flared two years ago, when Dr. Michael Davidson was fatally shot by a man who was distraught over the death of his elderly mother, who was a patient. At the time, nurses said that it was too easy to access patient floors and that they did not have enough input on security decisions.

Source: Boston Globe; February 5, 2017.