If you watch enough hospital dramas on TV, not only do the physicians usually all seem to be experts in multiple specialties, but by the end of each episode, the heroic doctor will most likely find a miraculous cure for the deadly disease afflicting their patient. The hospitals themselves seem to exist as a perfectly self-functioning organism of organization and infrastructure. What the cameras don’t show you is the real-life army of dedicated employees working round-the-clock to keep everything running smoothly. During National Health Care Facilities & Engineering Week, ASHE (American Society for Healthcare Engineering) put a spotlight on these folks — “Health Care’s Behind-The-Scenes Heroes”, as they call them. We couldn’t agree more.
While they may not be the first thing that comes to mind walking into a hospital, the facilities and engineering departments are very much the nuts and bolts of hospital operations. They’re managing plumbing, electrical, heating and ventilation, overall building maintenance; inspecting and servicing biomedical equipment and keeping the machines in the hospital safe and compliant. What they do has a direct impact on everything and everyone in the hospital.
Millions of Customers. Billions of Square Feet.
According to a 2007 study from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there were approximately 3,040 large hospital buildings in the United States, which comprised a combined 1.96 billion square feet of floor space, with an average of 644,300 square feet per building. However prestigious, award winning and world-renowned one of these hospitals may be, it’s only as good as the operations behind it.
Jennifer Williams in the plant engineering department at Novant Health puts it this way: “We push a remarkable patient experience. It’s hard to have that when your toilet is leaking and your television doesn’t work. The ability for the nurses to easily submit a request and know that it will be taken care of in a reasonable period of time is huge for customer service and overall hospital performance excellence.”
The idea of facilities having a big impact on a hospital’s performance is shared by Bobby Baird, Facilities Director at UF Health Shands Hospital. In May of 2015 UF Health, the University of Florida’s academic health center, launched “The Power of Together”, a five-year strategic plan focused on continued improvements in patient care, research, education, community engagement, and growth and expansion. “Our president Dr. David Guzick, our CEO Ed Jimenez and the rest of our leadership see us as being a top-ten medical center. The facilities department has a supporting role in this,” said Baird.
With regard to his facility team’s role in customer service, Baird says it starts with the patients in the beds, but it doesn’t stop there. “It’s the physicians, it’s the nursing units — it’s environmental services. If they’re trying to clean the shower and the grout is missing, they can’t do a good job of cleaning that shower. My customer is anyone who walks in the door of the building, anyone who is in that space is my customer.”
The American Hospital Association notes that hospitals in this country employ nearly 5.6 million people, close to 34 million patients are admitted each year, and each year they treat nearly 134 million patients in their emergency departments. Behind the scenes, facilities and engineering departments are supporting each and every one of them by keeping billions of square feet of hospitals safe, comfortable and functional. The physicians may get all of the attention on TV, but the next time you walk through a hospital, know that there are behind-the-scenes heroes in facilities and engineering keeping it running.