Industry Voices—4 healthcare construction management myths debunked

A photo of the exterior of a hospital on a sunny day
Healthcare construction management isn't all hard hats and high-visibility vests. The healthcare construction industry provides the foundation for facilities across the globe to support patients, staff and visitors 24/7. (Steve Design/Shutterstock)

From ambulatory surgical centers and hospice homes to 1,000-bed hospitals and birthing centers, few construction projects are as complex as those in healthcare. Turning four walls into a multifunctional healthcare facility doesn’t just happen overnight.

After all, building an environment that will remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week isn’t just a goal; it’s a necessity.

Those who have never worked in the healthcare construction industry may have a few misconceptions and questions about the field. Is construction management an easy job? Do facilities management and construction management correlate?

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Let’s separate healthcare construction fact from fiction, so you can set the foundation for your facility’s next project. 

MYTH: Healthcare construction managers only represent the construction industry, and that’s it.

FACT: Healthcare construction managers wear many different (hard) hats.

It’s true that each healthcare construction manager performs a wide variety of jobs. From planning blueprints with the hospital’s owner to advising on the electrical wiring of an operating room, a construction manager’s day is never the same as the last. Furthermore, when a healthcare construction manager arrives on site, they’re not just another construction guy. They’re now an advocate for and a representative of the healthcare facility.

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MYTH: Working in construction, especially in healthcare, is an easy job.

FACT: Healthcare facilities are the most complex and heavily regulated of building types.

The acute care provided by healthcare facilities requires a wide range of spaces for different types of service. Construction managers must build operational centers, patient rooms, emergency departments, research labs, food service spaces and more to create a functional healthcare facility. Not to mention that if a healthcare facility is being expanded or updated, the facility must run “business as usual” and patients and doctors may be only a few feet away from the work site. It’s a healthcare construction manager’s job to make this look easy.

In addition, construction projects must follow strict regulations, complying with local and/or state general building codes.Healthcare construction projects must follow federal regulations, too. Standards set by The Joint Commission and OSHA, along with the Facility Guidelines Institute, protect public safety and health. The standards and regulations in place keep all who enter a healthcare facility safe from harm, but keeping track of these regulations can be incredibly difficult without specialized knowledge.

MYTH: Facilities management and construction management are two separate entities.

FACT: Facilities management and construction management should work together as one.

To create a safe environment, healthcare construction teams and facilities management teams should be one continuous cycle, working together throughout the life of a project. Planning, design and construction strategies should be communicated frequently so that all goals align with ongoing facilities maintenance. Increased service outcomes, broadened team collaboration and streamlined communication are just some of the invaluable benefits blending these two services will provide.

By combining construction services—engineering, design and installation—with facilities management services—regulatory compliance, emergency management and energy savings—facilities will see the immediate value for their patients and staff.

MYTH: Most construction managers are undertrained and undereducated.

FACT: Healthcare construction is an extremely skilled and specialized career.

It’s hard to escape the negative stereotypes. The truth is, most in the construction industry are highly educated, licensed and registered in a multitude of related fields. Many started their careers as licensed architects, contractors and engineers before diving into healthcare construction. Some construction managers will even tell you that it was after seeing a family member who was positively affected by a healthcare provider when they decided to turn their compassion into a full-time profession.

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Additionally, specialized expertise in electrical, mechanical and telecommunications systems are required of construction workers to keep up with the ever-evolving functions of a hospital. In order to gain the certifications and experience necessary to work on a healthcare project, construction managers and workers must go through extensive training to start their careers. In turn, many organizations will provide routine workshops, training programs and monthly webinars to keep compliance standards top of mind.

Healthcare construction management isn’t all hard hats and high-visibility vests. The healthcare construction industry provides the foundation for facilities across the globe to support patients, staff and visitors 24/7.  

Mike Wood is vice president of construction at Medxcel.

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