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Succession Planning with a twist

It’s no secret, healthcare facilities are struggling to attract engineering and management talent. Perhaps following the road less traveled will alleviate employee shortages of today, and the future. 

Tiyana Hossain was a student at George Washington University, seeking her Masters of Health Administration when she attended the American College of Healthcare Executives Conference in March 2016. There, a mentor talked Tiyana into attending an executive level networking event. Once there, Tiyana proceeded to introduce herself to executives she met.

Returning to school, she followed up with emails to those executives, asking if she might be able to intern at their organizations. Robert Hacker, Executive Director, Plant Operations and Engineering Services, Cedars Sinai-Medical Center, Los Angeles, responded. He offered Tiyana an internship. Following her successful internship in summer 2016, she was invited back to perform her one year residency in 2017/18. She graduates from the program in 2018 and has been hired as a full-time employee upon her graduation.

I sat down with Tiyana and asked her to describe her non-traditional path to plant operations at one of the nation’s top hospitals. Tiyana’s story may provide a succession planning blue-print.*  


Q: Prior to Cedars, what was your familiarity with healthcare plant operations?

TH: It was not very detailed and I was not aware of a potential career path in plant operations. The MHA program at George Washington (GW) is great program, but primarily focused more on hospital business operations, process improvement, and quality, areas outside facilities work. 


That is actually one of the items I have on my To-Do list when I speak with my GW Program Director. I think plant operations should be presented as a career opportunity or minimally, offered as a 3-month rotation for students, as is done with finance, strategy, and other healthcare areas. Working in plant operations will open the eyes of students and alert them to this career, or at least provide them an appreciation for all the department does.


Q: Through your experience at Cedars, what have you learned about plant operations?

TH: Plant Ops is the backbone of the hospital. I don’t think most people outside plant ops are aware of all the department touches, I know I didn’t. It’s not because people don’t respect our work, but they don’t recognize us because we are not clinically based. I enjoy the work because it impacts so many areas across the hospital and is never boring.


Q: What types of projects are you involved with at Cedars?

TH: I have a broad range of responsibilities. One day I am reviewing work we outsource to subcontractors to determine if it is more advantageous to perform it in-house, while later I am attending a meeting involving Cancer Research, Safety, and Service Line for a new lab project. I have worked with infection control and other clinical departments, and assisted with campus wide policy changes for our Water Management Program. I have reviewed our work order and preventive maintenance process flow for efficiency, and inefficiency. I work with a multitude of hospital stake-holders. 

When Joint Commission arrived for their tri-annual survey, I was invited and encouraged to shadow with the Life Safety Officer. This was beyond educational, given the ability to see how to deal with a surveyor, understand codes, and regulations specific to Plant Ops, FPDC, Safety, and Security. 

Robert and I communicate daily and he doesn’t micro-manage me, but he does provide guidance, over-sight, and the opportunity to shadow other areas of the hospital. I’m comfortable asking for help when I need help or clarification.


Q: What would you say to a Facility Director who is considering offering an MHA student an internship?

TH: If the student has the right attitude, if they want to work hard and absorb knowledge, I would encourage them to offer the internship. I don’t have the same technical knowledge as an engineer, but I can, and have, learned facility operations: I can connect the dots as to how facility operations works. I have more to learn, but I have support in place to help me succeed. So can others.

* Tiyana's title is Sr. Admin Services Associate, Plant Operations

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