business woman

The Importance of Full-Time Facilities Employees During the Pandemic

How many full-time facilities employees should healthcare facilities departments staff? Here are some tips and advice on gauging the right level of staffing during the pandemic.

By Michael Burgett  

COVID-19 has kept the U.S. healthcare industry on its toes since February. From preparing for the coronavirus to arrive on our shores to new cases developing exponentially five months later, healthcare facilities have had to be nimble to accommodate for this ever-changing environment.

The facilities that have been able to adjust to the pandemic the fastest are not the facilities with the most full-time employees (FTEs), nor with the least. They are the facilities with the right number of FTEs. What is the right amount? Well, that depends. 

There is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all formula to determine the proper number of FTEs. Too many FTEs can lead to overcrowding, overlapping project responsibilities, and general confusion if not property managed. Too few means too much reliance on third-party contractors, causing facilities to be at the mercy of their outside partners to respond, understand the issues at hand, and complete tasks in a timely manner – if they’re even available at all.

It is important to have the right number of FTEs on staff to help provide the best care for your patients. While there’s no exact formula for all facilities, there is a way to determine the right number for your facilities. Measure the following factors:

  • Age of the building
  • Infrastructure within the building
  • Number of buildings on the healthcare campus
  • Type of care provided

An ambulatory care facility in a small neighborhood, a medical office building (MOB) in the suburbs, and a major hospital downtown will have different FTE needs for all of the above factors and more. Once these factors and the overall square footage have been considered, however, it is possible to calculate the number of FTEs needed for every square foot of space. This number will be different for every facility depending on its functions, even if they may be the same size.

If your facility has been relying on contractors during the pandemic, it’s not too late to calculate the right number of FTEs to bring on staff.

Planning and Preparedness During a Pandemic

COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it. Some facilities may have been able to conduct preventive maintenance and measurements before treating COVID-positive patients, but some may have had to be more reactive. Now is the time to measure what has been working, what hasn’t, and the number of FTEs needed to make the facility run as smoothly as possible, even as the coronavirus changes situations by the day.

Gather Data

Much like determining how many FTEs are right in a particular facility, actively and intensely gather data to see how maintenance technicians have been able to work – or not – in tandem with clinical departments. What do they need to do so? How much time does it take to complete certain tasks? Understand where the obstacles lie.

Build Layers of Protection

When the correct number of FTEs are determined and onboarded, address the immediate and preventive maintenance needs. This will have a number of positive effects, from making patients more comfortable to helping limit facility employees’ exposure to the virus and potential cross-contamination between clinical rooms.

COVID-specific Care

With coronavirus cases on the rise, preventive and reactionary maintenance will always continue. There are additional ways to honor FTEs’ time, though, to keep facilities running smoothly no matter the hospital’s capacity. Providing training on PPE, such as how to properly don and doff the gear, as well as testing associates who have been working in coronavirus treatment areas ensures that facilities can execute COVID-19 protection plans without scrambling to find hands on deck. As guidelines change, there will be smart, trained professionals in the facility to keep the building – and the people within it – running smoothly.

The pressures of rising costs weigh on all hospital leaders, especially today. The short-term win of reducing full-time staff may look good on paper, but they can upend facilities’ bottom lines when relying on contracts. During this pandemic, third-party maintenance personnel are costly and may not be in the best interests of the facility. Even as the virus continues, take the time to know how many FTEs you need to be successful and to successfully adjust in this ever-changing environment.

Michael Burgett, Area Vice President for Medxcel, leans on his 20 years of experience in healthcare construction and design, site selection, facilities management, capital equipment sales and both operational and customer development to determine the right fit of FTEs in his region.

Contact FacilitiesNet Editorial Staff »

  posted on 9/29/2020   Article Use Policy

Related Topics: