The Northcutt File
- Facility manager, Baptist Health Medical Center – North Little Rock, Ark.>/li>
- Building manager, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock
- Lean project manager, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
- Workflow design engineer, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
- Past president of Arkansas Association for Healthcare Engineering (AAHE)
- Certified in Lean Construction Management from Associated General Contractors of America
- AAHE Curtis Belin “Outstanding Engineer” Award
- Chi Omega Sorority Advisor to local Collegiate Chapter
- P.E.O. Sisterhood member
- Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering, University of Arkansas (Fayetteville)
Jordan Northcutt recently accepted a new position as facility manager at Baptist Health Medical Center – North Little Rock, Ark. This month, she tells HFM how the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) and the Arkansas Association for Healthcare Engineering (AAHE) helped her career growth.
What drew you to work in the health care facilities field?
The spring before senior year of college, a professor sent out a flyer for the ASHE Internship Program coming up that summer. I knew nothing about ASHE or health care in general, but it offered free housing and my parents told me I needed to start earning my own money, so I was sold on the idea. During the program, I worked in the performance excellence department for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), Little Rock, focusing on process improvement for the campus operations division.
Once a week, a team holds environment of care (EOC) rounds in a different unit in the hospital. The group consists of one representative from a range of internal departments. Each participant is given a paper checklist of common findings in their respective field that they are tasked to fill out and hand in at the completion of the survey. When I was an intern, one of the architects from down the hall began inviting me to tag along on this venture to familiarize myself with the campus. After a few weeks, the EOC coordinator would let me stand in for absent group members to complete the report on their behalf.
This gave me insight into these departments and how they intertwine. Some of the department directors quickly became trusted advisers of mine. They showed me how each action we make contributes to the overall mission of health care. By the end of the summer, I was hooked.
As graduation approached, I reached out to some contacts made during my ASHE internship and was accepted into the position of workflow design engineer in the planning, design and construction department at the hospital that hosted my internship. From there, I added on the role of Lean project manager, diving into specific processes for each department.
What are your job responsibilities?
By the time this issue is published, I will be making my biggest career jump yet, employed as facility manager at Baptist Health Medical Center.
However, my current title is building manager for UAMS, which is essentially a liaison between the clinical and facilities divisions. Day-to-day, I survey my facilities and report maintenance, fire and life safety, and housekeeping concerns to their respective departments. I am also in charge of updating the building management database to reflect the utilization of every single room on campus that belongs to my division for the facilities and administrative report.
In conjunction, I act as an owner’s representative during renovation projects. It is difficult to schedule each project meeting around every doctor, nurse and other professional who is a stakeholder in that particular area. I act as the constant voice of the hospital that communicates between both groups. I also use this platform to enforce standards in each building.
A unique part of my job is that I maintain all of the furniture in the hospital and outpatient clinics.
Before I came on board, anytime a piece of furniture was broken, ripped or stained, it was transferred to a room that essentially became a dumping ground. I’ve spent countless hours (and broken many fingernails) climbing over piles, contacting manufacturers, ordering parts and scheduling repairs to get the equipment back into service. Now I have created an advance tracking system (color-coded labels and dry-erase markers) to keep up with each item.
How have you used your background in process improvement in your career?
Process improvement does not always require a huge overhaul on existing operations. It can be something as simple as restructuring a form to make it easier for the customer to fill out.
I have had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects, ranging from using the pull schedule method in order to streamline the entire life cycle of construction projects to analyzing the cost benefit of switching from reusable curtains to disposable ones.
A big focus for industrial engineers is defining practices that are both efficient and effective. The words “Lean” and “change” are frequently met with stubborn or even hostile reactions. Coming in with a role tasked to shake up current methods is not easy. The first barrier to overcome is earning the group’s trust.
What is your involvement in ASHE and your local AAHE chapter?
Plain and simple: My career as I know it today would be nonexistent without ASHE and my local Arkansas chapter, AAHE. Not only due to the education the organizations offer as a whole but, more importantly, the specific individuals who have advised and guided me each step of the way. Locally, I have held every position on our executive board, just recently wrapping up my term as the chapter’s youngest president to date.
Within ASHE, I have had the honor of being selected to serve on many task forces and committees. Currently, that includes assisting in the Annual Conference Planning Task Force, the Young Professionals Task Force and the Chapter Relations Committee.
Do you have advice for young professionals developing their careers?
Find trusted mentors, both inside and outside of your company. If not only for education and guidance, these colleagues can also act as a sounding board when you just need to vent. Shameless plug: Get involved with both ASHE and your local chapter to connect with other professionals in your area. Ask your boss if you can spend a Friday afternoon shadowing a coworker from a different department or even a different facility. Continuously seek out opportunities to learn from others, even outside of your field.
In one of my volunteer organizations, the first and foremost rule between members is, “Always say ‘yes’ when you are asked to help.” I take this motto to heart in my professional career as well. Young professionals come with our own set of skills that others may not have. Use that tech-savvy knowledge to help someone down the hall. Avoid passing the buck because a task is not your job. People will take note of your willingness to help even when you think no one is watching.
What advice would you give to organizations recruiting the next generation?
Start reaching out to your young professionals (YPs) from day one. Too often, I sit through educational sessions with titles similar to “How to Find Your Successor.” We are here. We want to be challenged. The biggest move you can make is a simple one: Take a younger professional under your wing. It takes very little effort to invite a YP to a meeting with you or let them tag along when you head down to the boiler room. Hands-on experience is invaluable. Even though that YP’s role may not require them to understand this particular process or piece of equipment, slowly expanding their knowledge base will prep them to take on bigger tasks.
My friends and I cringe at the M-word (millennial) and the baggage that classification carries. The truth is that there are many of us out here in the workforce ready to put in the long hours that it takes to become successful health facilities leaders.