This research seeks to better understand the current state of US healthcare FM industry hiring practices from colleges and universities to identify potential employment barriers into healthcare FM and interventions to help overcome them. Two national surveys were distributed to healthcare facility managers and directors to collect quantifiable information on healthcare organizations, hiring practices from FM academic programs, individual demographics, and opinions of FM college graduates. Designated survey respondents were also contacted for phone interviews. Additionally, a Delphi method was used for this research to draw upon the collective knowledge and experience of 13 experts over three iterative rounds of input.
Results indicate that the healthcare FM industry is hiring very few college interns and new college graduates for entry-level management jobs. Strong homogeneousness demographics, backgrounds, and paths of entry among existing healthcare FM professionals has created an industry bias against candidates attempting to enter healthcare FM from non-traditional sources. The healthcare FM industry’s principal source for new talent comes from building trade succession within healthcare organizations. However, continuing to rely on building tradespersons as the main path of entry into the healthcare FM industry may prove problematic. Most existing healthcare facility managers and directors will be retiring within 10 years, yet it is taking more than 17 years of full-time work experience to prepare building tradespersons to assume these roles.
New college graduates from FM academic programs are a viable recruitment source for new talent into healthcare FM as younger professionals are commonly entering the healthcare FM through the path of higher education. Although few new college graduates enter the healthcare FM industry, they are experiencing similar promotion timeframes compared to other candidate with many years of full-time work experience. Unfamiliarity with FM academic programs, work experience requirements, limited entry-level jobs within small organizations, low pay, and a limited exposure to healthcare industry topics present challenges for new FM college graduates attempting to enter the healthcare FM industry. This study shows that gaps indeed exist in student learning outcomes for a comprehensive healthcare FM education; key technical topics specific to the healthcare industry are not being addressed by organizations accrediting construction and facility management academic programs. A framework is proposed for a comprehensive healthcare FM education including accreditation, regulatory and code compliance, infection control, systems in healthcare facilities, healthcare construction project management and methods, and clinical operations and medical equipment. Interestingly, academics in the field of FM generally disagree with industry professionals that these technical topics are important student learning outcomes. Consequently, FM academics prefer to teach students general FM principles with the expectation that specific technical knowledge will be gained in the workplace after graduation from college. Nevertheless, candidates attempting to enter healthcare FM without industry specific knowledge are disadvantaged due to industry perceptions and expectations. University-industry linkage must be improved to successfully attract students into the field of healthcare FM and establish colleges and universities as a sustainable recruitment source in helping address FM attrition.
This paper is valuable in establishing the current state of the US healthcare industry’s hiring practices from FM academic programs and identifying major barriers of entering the healthcare FM industry for new FM college graduates. Findings facilitate development of interventions by healthcare organizations and universities to further open FM academic programs as a sustainable source of new talent to help address healthcare FM attrition, including a healthcare FM education framework to elucidate college student learning outcomes for successful employment in healthcare FM. These student learning outcomes provide a framework for both the healthcare industry and academia in preparing future facility managers.