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During Taylor Vaughn’s first week as an administrative assistant in the engineering department at Children’s Health in Dallas in 2015, the director and several managers left the department. It was bad timing, because a Joint Commission survey was expected in the coming months.
“The one lone manager who was left came over to me and said, ‘Hey, I need you to do this Joint Commission documentation,’” remembers Vaughn, MBA, CHFM, CHC, CLSS-HC, who had recently graduated from college with a degree in political science. “I didn’t know what The Joint Commission was. I didn’t really know what engineering was either!”
Fortunately, that manager was an American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) member and knew that ASHE had the educational assets Vaughn needed to quickly get up to speed on Joint Commission issues. She joined ASHE herself and immediately accessed ASHE’s vast collection of Joint Commission-related resources.
“I watched a lot of past conference presentations, and I joined the community board. Any question I asked, somebody answered and helped me out,” Vaughn says. “I also read the monographs and all the other resources there. It was my lifeline until I got up to speed. We went through the survey and everything was fine.”
Today Vaughn is a facilities manager at Children’s Health. She has tapped ASHE for help with many career issues in the years since that first difficult week, something countless ASHE members have done.
“If you think about a member’s career journey, from training all the way through to retirement, ASHE supports them along that journey in multiple ways,” says Tina Morton, ASHE’s director of member engagement. “First, we offer education at every point in that pathway. Then you can layer on certification to that, and then add on other member benefits such as advocacy, networking and the job board. ASHE simply helps members on every step along their career journey.”
As Vaughn learned, ASHE’s educational resources can be vital to becoming an effective facilities manager. Many members find that the in-person educational opportunities available at conventions are especially valuable, and a new program is designed to help young professionals maximize their convention experience.
Amanda Swanson, the facilities operations supervisor at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing, Minn., has attended several ASHE Region 6 conferences over the past decade, but had never attended an ASHE Annual Conference & Technical Exhibition until this past summer, when she attended the event in Boston. She came to that event as part of ASHE’s inaugural Shadow Program.
The Shadow Program is designed to allow early careerist ASHE members to hang out with more experienced members at ASHE events. Doing so accelerates their involvement during those events and helps them make connections. The participants accompany a senior member during educational events, social events and Advisory Board events. In addition, they are asked to attend the trade show and visit with at least 10 companies that they have not previously been in touch with.
“It was amazing,” Swanson says. “It was kind of networking on a whole other level. I met quite a few people in one short time frame, and all those connections are just experiences that I don’t want to forget. Being able to sit at the Advisory Board meeting was an amazing experience, just to understand ASHE a little bit better and understand what everybody in that room was most passionate about. Then, they gave us an opportunity to ask questions, ask how we can help, how we can volunteer and how we can give back to the program.”
Morton explains that the Shadow Program is designed not just to help the young careerists, but also ASHE itself. For example, because the young careerists are asked to provide their own opinions at the Advisory Board-level events, the Advisory Board benefits from the perspectives of people who may be at an entirely different point in their career. Rather than relying on the views of the senior ASHE members — who are the typical Advisory Board members — the Shadow Program participants can conceivably offer ideas from a new generation of future leaders.
Another vital benefit to ASHE of the Shadow Program is that it helps the association identify and foster up-and-coming leaders.
“For ASHE, we get to identify rock stars, rising rock stars,” Morton says. “And we get to identify these young professionals that we want to keep in the fold and we want to keep in close connection with, so that they can not only stay members throughout their career, but they can also be ASHE ambassadors. By really putting emphasis on these young professionals starting while they’re still in training, this program addresses the workforce issue and it addresses succession planning issues.”
The Shadow Program launched with one participant at the International Summit & Exhibition on Health Facility Planning, Design & Construction (PDC Summit) in March in Phoenix and followed up with four participants at the Annual Conference in August. These initial five participants were chosen by asking current ASHE leaders to nominate young professionals they felt were standouts in their fields, Morton says. In the future, an application process will be developed that allows all young professionals to apply for the program.
Tracy Dagnon, ASHE’s director of operations, has observed the Shadow Program and feels that it will be a great way to foster leaders down the road. “I think it’s been amazing so far,” Dagnon says. “I’ve been very impressed with how the shadows participated, especially during the Advisory Board meeting. They were not afraid to speak up and contribute to the discussion. And I found their input incredibly insightful.”
Learning and growing
Most ASHE members who have been on the job for a while eventually reach a level of expertise that prompts them to consider an important mid-career step: earning the Certified Healthcare Facility Manager (CHFM) designation.
This certification is designed to acknowledge health care facilities managers who are capable of effectively handling duties related to compliance; planning, design and construction; maintenance and operations; finance; and administration. The resources ASHE provides for members interested in preparing for the CHFM exam (available at ashe.org/resources/chfmexamprep) are vast. They range from CHFM flash cards to on-demand recordings on various topics to monographs on key issues. Members also can take a CHFM Exam Review Course and a CHFM Self-Assessment Examination. In-person prep classes also are available during ASHE conferences.
“The goal around the CHFM credential and the education leading up to the exam is about ensuring the professionals have a holistic view of the skill sets required to excel as a health care facilities manager,” says Adam Bazer, ASHE’s director of education. “Then, the credential itself becomes a way for those professionals to signal to their C-suite and to the marketplace that they really understand and can apply the knowledge base that a health care facility manager needs to have to effectively support their organization in the way that facility managers do in helping to save lives, reduce risk and decrease costs.”
Bazer explains that the organization’s educational resources help facilities professionals build up to the credentialing phase.
“The way that the certifications are designed is that at every level of an individual moving through their health care facility career, educational opportunities exist in a way that when you get to the point of sitting down for that CHFM test, you’re coming to that test prepared with a knowledge base that you’ve already developed through the in-person, virtual and on-demand resources that ASHE provides,” Bazer says.
Vaughn, who earned her CHFM certification in 2018, attended online CHFM preparation courses and took part in an in-person course at an annual conference. She says she believes those courses were key to her success in passing the exam.
Once she earned the certification, she encouraged other facilities managers at Children’s Health to pursue it.
“I’m a big, big proponent of the CHFM,” Vaughn says. “My hospital actually has, I think, seven people that have their CHFMs now. We really, really push that and we think it’s just such a standard of facility management to be able to show that you’re a well-rounded facility manager. So, we push even our supervisors to go to the classes and start. Maybe you’re not going to pass the test yet, but at least go and take it and see what you need to work on.”
Another popular and valuable ASHE certification is Certified Healthcare Constructor (CHC). It is commonly pursued by general contractors and other construction professionals who work in health care environments, though it is available to facilities managers as well – Vaughn, for example, earned her CHC certification earlier this year.
The CHC is designed to certify an individual’s knowledge in four broad domains: health care industry fundamentals; the planning, design and construction process; health care facility safety; and financial stewardship. The value of the CHC credential for a contractor is that it demonstrates to potential health care clients that the individual understands the demands of the health care construction environment, ranging from dust control to noise control to fire safety issues.
“The goal of the CHC is for contractors to be able to indicate to hospitals that they understand the unique needs of working in a health care environment,” Bazer says. “And that they aren’t going to put the patients or clinicians or other professionals that are working at the health care facility in danger through a lack of that understanding. What we see in the marketplace is that often construction firms will bring CHC training and exam prep education directly to their subcontractors that they work with on a regular basis. That way, from a competitive standpoint, they can say that not only is their team CHC certified, but all the teams that they would be potentially bringing into the health care facility also are CHC certified.”
ASHE’s Health Care Physical Environment Worker Certification (HCPEWC) is a less intense certification and is intended for subcontractors, engineering staff and others who work on-site at a hospital. The certification ensures that those personnel understand the special requirements and restrictions of a health care work site.
All three of the above certifications are valid for three years. The CHFM and CHC can be renewed via continuing education credits or by taking the test again; the HCPEWC requires taking the test again.
Morton says an “alumni network” is being established to help members who want to pursue ASHE certification.
“We’re going to be mobilizing and reaching out to all current CHFMs and CHCs, and we’re going to ask them to be a part of a network,” she says. “It’s going to be part of an online community, so that folks who are interested in learning how others before them did it have a bunch of people they could reach out to. So, they could say, ‘Hey, I need to prepare for this. What should I expect? How long did it take you to study? What did you do? What was your path?’”
The alumni network should be established in 2023, Morton says.
Planning for succession
Closer to the end of an ASHE’s member career, the educational focus changes. For example, succession planning becomes important. A hospital is vulnerable if there is not a plan to effectively replace senior facilities leaders upon their departure.
A key succession planning resource that ASHE offers is the monograph titled “Succession Planning: Preparing for the Future of Your Facility and Your Career,” which was published in 2017 and is available at ashe.org/management_monographs/mg2017avis. Among issues covered in this document are how to identify positions that require succession planning; how to define the competencies required for those positions; and how to identify and develop resources to fill gaps in education and experience.
Dagnon says improvements to this monograph are on the way.
“We’re going to survey customers who purchased the monograph and identify any gaps or things that have changed since the monograph was published five years ago,” Dagnon says. “We also are considering making it more actionable or providing additional tools and resources to support what’s in the monograph.”
Late-career ASHE members often feel called to “give back” to their association and up-and-coming leaders, Morton says. A new development to facilitate that is the Healthcare Leadership Development Council, which will be comprised of leaders who can share their experience and knowledge with young professionals.
“The Healthcare Leadership Development Council will be focusing on facility management leadership skill building,” Morton explains. “The whole purpose of that group is going to be to help mid-career facility managers get to that pinnacle position. How do you go from the boiler room to the board room, so to speak? If you aspire to be that kind of leader, how do you get there? That’s the whole purpose of this new member group — to create content and courses specifically to address that.”
ASHE’s involvement in a facility manager’s career spans from the moment they enter the hospital until their career concludes. The association’s resources guide them from basic education to certification to succession planning.
For many members, the value of being an ASHE member remains even after retirement.
“One of the things that I absolutely love about my job is I get to go to the past presidents’ dinner every year,” Morton says. “And I am constantly amazed at how close these folks have become, not only as professionals but as their families. That is one of the coolest things to see, how ASHE has been at the center of making someone’s profession and has been a part of their family life too.”