Healthcare facilities staff are caregivers, too - so tear down the silos

Many of my peers, clients and colleagues have heard how I joined the healthcare field. What you may not know is that I haven't always been a passionate believer in the idea that facilities contribute to patient wellbeing. What brought me to that perspective was an early on-the-job revelation.

When I became director of environmental services at Rice Memorial Hospital, in 1965, I wasn't choosing to become part of a healthcare team—that wasn't my mentality. As I navigated this foreign healthcare environment, I was supported by a third-party management company with corporate objectives that included, among other things, helping people develop. During our 12 years of collaboration, I saw this objective in action every day. Helping people develop was of particular benefit to me—I was a finish carpenter when they took me in. My colleagues in the management company placed their trust and their business in my hands, providing the professional development I needed and making their technical tools available to me.

After I'd been working there a few months, I realized it was really a pretty good job, but with one drawback: those pesky patients who seemed to always be in my way. Yet, the nursing staff always advocated for them. When I declared my plan for modernizing a nursing unit, nursing slammed on the brakes and said I could only use a room on one side the corridor and perhaps a second room on the other side of the corridor, depending on census and the degree of disruption. We finally agreed that I could have two rooms with a common head wall. What mattered to the nurses were the patients, not my project.

Then, one of my children was scheduled for minor surgery in "my" hospital. I'll never forget how the nurse placed him in a little, red Radio Flyer wagon and rolled him off to the operating room. His look of total trust in me and the nurse pulled at my heartstrings.

I had a revelation on the spot. Everything we did in that hospital should support patients just like my boy. Every day, we should ensure that the trust that patients place in us each day is merited. Every decision, action and relationship must support the wellbeing of our patients.

In that experience, I finally saw how clinical care and facilities are inevitably bound together, and that their separate silos must be torn down. Hospitals and health systems will be best positioned to survive and thrive with partnership between clinical and facilities staff—a partnership in which both act as one on behalf of patients.

In my role at JLL, my goal is to re-create the physical environment of patient care to one of clinical-facilities partnership to better care for patients and save lives. I envision a program dedicated to providing an unobtrusive physical environment that supports the patient stay and creates a culture of safety for caregivers.

The physical environment makes a difference. We must create a safe environment and prevent the conditions in which more than 600,000 people each year are subject to healthcare-associated infections (HAIs)1. We’ll be successful if all staff—both clinical and non-clinical—join together in the built environment to earn the trust of our patients…and that youngster in the little red, Radio Flyer wagon.

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