A Client for Life recently asked us what advice we would give those interested in entering a career in healthcare construction. Knowledge and experience gained in framing and carpentry, concrete and excavation, steel erection, mechanical and electrical systems installation, project management and delivery, pre-con, estimating, etc., will directly apply to healthcare construction. The skills learned over time shape the growth of the construction professional, regardless of the type of project. There are a few things, however, that are unique to healthcare that our expert builders and project managers must apply to their experience and knowledge base when building healthcare projects.
Patient Safety and the Immuno-comprised
Nothing is more critical than protecting and providing for the safety and welfare of the public. Whether in an acute care setting inside a hospital, a medical office building, or an ambulatory surgery, imaging, or infusion and treatment facility, we work daily beside an immuno-compromised population.
It is essential to understand that the very nature of treatment for many patients fighting cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), and auto-immune diseases renders their immune systems ineffective at fighting nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections from simple exogenous threats such as dormant mold spores resting on the top of ceiling tiles, airborne bacteria or surfaces laden with potential organic contaminants that would otherwise be harmless to healthy individuals. Premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) fight for their lives while struggling to breathe room air that must be filtered and free from airborne contaminants stirred and scattered by nearby construction activity. Construction professionals working in the healthcare environment should remember that the second most significant health risk to patients undergoing surgery is fighting a new infection they acquired while in the operating room.
An effective patient safety plan for successful healthcare projects begins with the education and awareness of each person on the job, regardless of their role or experience level.
Effective Communication and Self-Awareness
Construction professionals working in the healthcare construction arena will frequently find themselves in contact with various people on active healthcare job sites who may not be present on other projects. Some of these include full-time project management representatives employed by our Clients for Life, third-party owners’ construction representatives, life safety inspectors from the State Department of Health, reviewers from the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Hospitals, medical imaging equipment vendors and installers, and, on occasion, hospital executives on a periodic walkthrough to observe construction progress.
Entry-level employees, such as field engineers and project engineers with just a few years of experience, will participate in frequent client interaction during healthcare construction projects. Healthcare renovation projects require effective constant communication with the clinical professionals affected by the scope of work, such as a lead clinical physician or nurse practitioner, nurse manager, patient floor unit clerk, environmental services manager, hospital patients, and their families.
Effective communication with these healthcare and facility services professionals requires self-awareness, empathy, maturity, and a thorough understanding of the program, use, and patient care scenarios surrounding the renovation project area.
Regardless of the role performed by our construction professionals and expert builders, we must consider how our words, actions, and the choices we make while on the job will affect and be interpreted by those around us in this sensitive environment.
When construction professionals maintain a safe and clean job site, focus on patient safety and awareness, and communicate effectively, they build strong relationships, mutual respect, loyalty, and environments for effective clinical care that improve the quality of life for patients and their families for generations to come.
Robert J. Allen, PE, CHC
Director of Healthcare Construction