To build patient trust, create trustworthy healthcare facilities

Why do we do what we do? Why do we care? Regardless of our role, setting or job, these simple questions guide all of us who work in healthcare. In the healthcare industry, everyone—from the COO to the chief engineer and the director of facilities to the chief nurse—is a caregiver. Healthcare doesn’t work unless the patient trusts the caregivers, and that feeling of trust starts the minute a patient walks in the door.

That observation is based on all my years as a patient care and operations executive. I’m proud to be a registered nurse, and I’ve worked in multi-site acute and post-acute integrated healthcare and academic medical systems for over 35 years. I’ve learned to not only care for the patients, but also for each member of the healthcare team—including those who care for the facilities and the built environment.

As a matter of fact, those team members are caregivers just as much as the nurses, physicians and therapists who see patients and their families each day. For caregivers of all stripes, a patient’s trust is the greatest honor. Our “hands-on” profession truly becomes so when patients literally put their lives in our hands. Patients also put their trust—and their lives—in the hands of the engineers, the facilities managers and the operations teams.

If a patient’s room, the hallway, the operating room, the emergency department, the roof, the kitchen or even the parking lot isn’t safe for the patient and family, they may not trust us. Any of us. Trust is the essence and precursor of allowing someone to care for you. The work accomplished every day by engineering, environmental services (EVS), and all who maintain and improve the environment is crucial for safety and creating trust with patients and families. Consider these situations:

  • If the parking lot is poorly lit, has potholes or is slick with ice and snow, how will the patient/family feel?
  • If the front door to the facility is dark, hard to find and the doors don’t function, how will the patient/family feel?
  • If the hallway is narrow, the ceiling is low and the tiles are spotted with dirt, how will the patient/family feel?
  • If the room is too warm or too cold, or musty and humid, malodorous and the floor sticky, how will the patient/family feel?

Unfortunately, few see or understand the thought, planning, daily work and vigilance required to create a clean and safe facility and environment that helps build patient trust. Patients and families can see, hear and smell the condition of a facility. Those impressions of safety and security tell them all they need to know about a healthcare system. Who really ponders the angle and grade of a parking lot to assure safety? The facilities staff. Yet, few patients and families know what airflow is and how it improves wellness and helps prevent infections.

It’s imperative that we, as an industry, realize the importance of facilities in fostering patient trust. From my experience as a hands-on caregiver, I’ve developed great respect and trust for those who ensure that our healthcare facilities are safe and provide a comfortable healing place for patients and families.

Engineers, environmental service staff, architects, painters, plumbers, electricians—I don’t want to leave any profession off this list, but I probably have—are “caregivers” as much as a registered nurse, nurse aide, physical therapist or physician.

My colleague George Mills personifies the “caregiver” who isn’t a nurse or a doctor. As an advisor to JLL, I have witnessed firsthand his commitment to patient care. You can see and feel George’s dedication to the patient environment in his words and actions. We aim to serve you together as you walk your path of caregiving to the patients and families we serve.

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