A recurring theme that came up at the recent American Society for Healthcare Engineering Annual Conference & Technical Exhibition was the often-misunderstood role of operational departments within the health care organization.

Considering the demanding technical nature of our readers' jobs, it's perhaps not surprising that they often concentrate on the minutia of their tasks without spending much time worrying about how they fit into their organizations' overall missions. However, such an attitude on the part of department managers can be detrimental not only to their careers but to the health care organization overall by allowing administration to never fully value their critical contributions.

The convention's keynoter, for instance, urged ASHE attendees to think of themselves as part of the patient care team and communicate that description to co-workers and patients alike. He also advised them to quantify their work in easy-to-understand terms—such as how many light bulbs replaced, pieces of medical equipment repaired or linens changed in a year—to better point out the problems that would ensue if their work was not accomplished efficiently.

Elsewhere during the convention, talk turned to finding and inspiring the next generation of leaders as well as elevating the role of health facilities professionals to a place at the table with C-suite executives. When one thinks about the massive investments hospitals are making in their physical facilities to attract new patients and staff, one vendor told me, it's not unreasonable that those who oversee construction, operation and maintenance should have a more influential role in the decision-making process.

It's a subject Health Facilities Management intends to explore more deeply in the future.