Hiring for Healthcare Experience

Posted on March 23, 2011


Hospitals are sometimes torn with the choice of who to hire to do their next project. A savvy hospital board will question a team’s qualifications for every project:  is the firm that we used last time, or that we always use, really qualified for this next project?

Such a scenario plays out in rural areas especially, where there may not be much choice for architects and builders with a wealth of healthcare experience, and where there is intense pressure to keep money and jobs local. I liken this debate to whether you would rather have your child delivered by a family doctor or an obstetrician? To whom do you entrust your child’s safe entry into a new world?

The local architect and contractor are very serviceable for lots of types of non-healthcare projects, and many hospitals make do with nearby professionals because of established relationships. Heck, they probably helped tutor the very architects they use on the finer points of healthcare design throughout the years. Administrators know the local guy is not the best, but he is a plain dealer, charges fair rates, works hard, and the hospital knows his weaknesses.

But healthcare design and construction is the most complicated project work out there. It is highly code-driven and expensive, with a lot of risk exposure for the owner if things are not done correctly. Healthcare is really not to be left to chance.

Similar things can be said for the local family doctor and the obstetrician. The local family doctor is Mr. Reliable and is a good ‘Jack of all Trades’, but this is your baby. An obstetrician is a specialist, someone who has extra training and depth of knowledge in babies. She knows what to expect, and how to handle the unexpected. The specialist has volume and quality on her side:  she loves to deliver babies and delivers more in one year than your family doctor has delivered in his whole life. Also, the specialist trains on baby delivery; she goes to conferences, has been published on the subject, and gets additional mentoring to stay fresh on current baby topics, theory and knowledge.

Unless advanced age puts a professional’s physical capabilities, judgment and current technical expertise in doubt, there is really no argument against experience.

Yet, given the choice between a local, familiar general practice architect and general contractor, or a healthcare specialist designer and seasoned hospital builder, how could a hospital owner trust her baby to anything but the most qualified?