Arkansas Hospitals Health & Science

Engineers on the Front Lines of Health Care

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by Brian Morgan, Arkansas Association of Healthcare Engineers

What are expectations? A simple web search produces a great definition: “strong beliefs that something will happen or be the case in the future.”

In the hospital environment, medical staff members have certain expectations. These might include certain equipment availability, cleanliness in all areas of the facility, and a reasonable sense of safety and security in the workplace. Clinical staff members have another set of expectations, which may or may not overlap those of the medical staff. The same can be said for each of the support services as well. Each of us has our own personal thoughts and beliefs on how things should work and be maintained within the hospital environment.

Our business is caring for our patients. When patients enter our hospital, what are their expectations, or those of their family members? Perhaps these include a safe, clean environment, knowledgeable and caring staff, feeling like they’re important. Much research has been devoted to the correlation between patient satisfaction and successful recovery.

As Health Care Engineers, we are right on the front lines when it comes to meeting the expectations of our patients, as well as those of the medical and clinical staffs and all other hospital employees and visitors. We strive to provide an inviting atmosphere, a clean and safe environment, and equipment and instruments that function correctly every time. We keep the lights burning, the walls painted and the TV sets in working order.

Regulatory agencies have their own sets of expectations when it comes to the Environment of Care a hospital provides. These expectations go beyond what patients and family members could ever conceive. Their published regulations are the backbone of the “safe and secure environment” that tops everyone’s list when it comes to health care expectations.

Health Care Engineers, working within these regulations and guidelines, have a direct influence on infection rates by assuring proper air exchanges and pressure relationships. We maintain temperature and humidity at accepted guidelines throughout our hospitals. Health Care Engineers maintain the medical gas supplies, the operation and accuracy of the vast number of medical devices throughout the hospital, and even maintain the ice machines our visitors use.

Changes Over Time

Expectations are ever-changing. When I was younger, my “mischiefs” caused me many visits to – and even a few stays at – the local hospital. Doctors and nurses gave shots, stitched me up, bandaged me, put me in casts and operated on me without my really knowing what they were doing, and why. It was common knowledge, “Doctors made you better.”

Today, expectations of the general population are not this simple. People can break out their smartphones and within seconds read reviews from others about any hospital’s cleanliness, or gauge people’s confidence in staff or procedures. Today, when I see my doctors, we discuss treatment options; I don’t blindly submit myself to their course of treatment.

Expectations from today’s regulatory agencies are also ever-changing. The ways we used to maintain the hospital are no longer accepted methods. Air exchanges and pressure relationships that were once maintained a certain way have now evolved, and regulations have changed. Materials and methods that were once approved are no longer acceptable. Safety equipment locations, emergency power and even life safety requirements have changed through the years as best practices continue to develop with changing technologies.

Meeting Expectations

How can Health Care Engineers remain current with these changing regulations, technologies and expectations? To meet the expectations of patients and visitors, I would suggest looking into the mission statement and values of your organization. Ask yourself, “How would I like to be treated?” “How would I like my mom to be treated?”

Remaining current with regulations requires education and training. Many of our hospitals and health centers in the state are members of the Arkansas Hospital Association and as such, our Hospital Engineers have access to a wealth of instructor-led and self-paced learning opportunities. The training calendar on the website is easy to navigate, and the courses cover a vast range of health-related topics.

The Arkansas Association for Healthcare Engineers (AAHE) is another great resource. The AAHE includes members involved with facility safety, members who are Clinical Engineers and members who are business partners from most healthcare-related fields. Our board works to offer relevant education from national speakers, professional in their subject matter, who present at our conferences.

Our ever-changing field of health care has many demands, and as Hospital Engineers, we hold the lives of our patients and co-workers in our hands. This makes it imperative that we remain at the top of our game when it comes to regulations, technologies and yes, expectations. Hospital Engineers are dedicated to the care of Arkansans and our hospital facilities. We’re glad to be a part of what makes health care in Arkansas the trusted entity that it is.

Brian Morgan, CHC, CHFM is Administrative Director of Facilities, CHI St. Vincent Health System.

The above article is from the Spring 2018 edition of Arkansas Hospitals, a quarterly magazine published by the Arkansas Hospital Association. Vowell, Inc. produces Arkansas Hospitals on behalf of the Arkansas Hospital Association. This article is reprinted with permission.

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