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Mike Armstrong: From Healer to Protector

  • Category: Blog, News, Pulse
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  • Written By: Dwain Hebda
Mike Armstrong: From Healer to Protector

Leading with Empathy and Resolve in Hospital Security

Asked what inspired a decade in law enforcement followed by 15 years leading Baxter Health’s Security Department, Mike Armstrong offers a simple yet resolute answer.

“I’ve always had an issue with bullies,” he said. “I have never liked people who use their position to get over on people they saw as being of a lesser position or who just enjoy standing on other people to make themselves taller. I always had a desire to protect people and to help people protect themselves.”

An Navy brat, Armstrong moved around a lot before settling in Arkansas. He spent 10 years as a police officer in Bull Shoals, working his way up to chief, and was set to retire before the opportunity to take over security at Baxter Health came up. 

“I was notified they wanted to build a professional security department, and what we agreed upon, essentially, was that I would come in and rebuild this department from the ground up,” he said. “The hospital was extremely supportive in doing that, and it just seemed like a good opportunity at that time.”

Under his leadership, officers were armed, the headcount went from six to 13 and multiple security improvements were made including significantly increasing the number of cameras and introducing after-hours lockdowns to minimize access. 

He’s also invested countless hours of training and coaching to help develop officers into useful deterrents while exercising restraint and retaining their compassion for all with whom they come in contact. A vivid example was a would-be active shooter in 2021 who was tased and sustained an injury in the process of being disarmed by security and local police, only to receive treatment in the very hospital he was about to shoot up a few minutes prior.

“It takes a special individual to go from having to stand between a rifle and the safety of the hospital to having to make sure that this person, who has just been this enormous threat, is kept safe in the process of being treated in the ER,” he said. 

“It’s tough; you have to carry a large enough degree of empathy to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and not pass judgment on them so that you can actually be helpful to facilitating them getting care. And you need to do it even for somebody that you might not particularly want to.”

This feature appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of Pulse Magazine. To view the entire issue, visit