Maximizing Safety Through Digital Training

By embracing technology-driven training, managers help deliver high-quality care while minimizing risks and enhancing overall safety.

By Bartholomew Jae, Contributing Writer

The role of the healthcare facility manager is dynamic, multi-faceted and critical to the safety and well-being of a building and its occupants. The role is marked by constant change — new innovations in smart facilities, the internet of things (IoT), and renewable energy sources have created new efficiencies and emerging hazards within facilities. In the healthcare sector, managers also must deal with stricter regulations, several layers of authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), and additional power continuity and patient safety concerns. 

It is a high-stakes role because if a healthcare facility cannot pass an audit, it loses funding and support from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). 

The nature of facility management makes continuous education and upskilling critical. Digital training enables healthcare facility managers to stay informed about the latest safety guidelines and best practices, ensuring a proactive approach to handling emergencies, infection control and patient care. By embracing technology-driven training methods, managers empower their organizations to deliver high-quality care while minimizing risks and enhancing overall safety within the healthcare environment. 

Matching tasks and training 

Many aspects go into managing a healthcare facility. Building life safety and fire protection are constant priorities throughout its entire lifecycle. Managers need to be competent in ensuring facilities are safe from incidents, know actions to take in case of an emergency and keep up to date with changes in regulations, codes, standards, emerging hazards and risk-mitigation methods. 

For example, managers might be involved in a construction project that expands an existing facility. The manager needs to ensure that proper life safety and fire protection measures are taken for the project. Once the facility has been built, they take on a variety of inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) responsibilities for years to come. They must have the training to know when a fire or sprinkler system needs testing and have a solid enough understanding of those systems to ensure technicians and contractors do their jobs correctly. 

In their everyday walkthroughs around their facilities, facility managers must know enough to recognize a fire or safety feature that has been compromised and needs attention. Incident readiness is also a critical responsibility for managers. In case of an emergency such as a fire, power outage or active shooter, they must be prepared to execute an emergency plan and communicate effectively with first responders. Healthcare facility managers also must consider the way ITM and emergency response impact patient care and outcomes. 

With such an array of responsibilities, healthcare managers must be trained on several codes and standards, including: NFPA 101 Life Safety Code; NFPA 99 Health Care Facilities Code; NFPA 25 Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems; and NFPA 110 Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems. With these codes perpetually evolving, the manager’s daily roles and responsibilities also evolve. The only way managers can keep up is through continuous training. 

Staying ahead of safety concerns 

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are required to comply with CMS, which incorporates life safety codes and standards from the 2012 editions of NFPA 101 and NFPA 99. Since 2012, there have been several rounds of updates in each of these standards, meaning bare minimum compliance with CMS does not mean healthcare facilities are addressing emerging safety concerns that come with innovations like renewable energy or IoT. 

Continuous training plays a critical role in ensuring managers have the critical knowledge to drive safety and efficiency beyond current CMS requirements. If and when CMS publishes new requirements enforcing more up-to-date safety standards, managers who have invested in their professional education also will have an easier transition. Proper training ensures managers are not only aware of relevant requirement changes but understand their new responsibilities and can execute them. 

Digital training offers numerous advantages to healthcare facility managers and their organizations, including enhanced accessibility and flexibility and increased retention. It enables individuals from diverse locations to access standardized, high-quality content without travel and the associated expenses related to in-person sessions. 

Asynchronous virtual training empowers employees to adopt a self-paced learning approach, allowing them to complete modules on their schedule. This flexibility enables them to take courses in shorter increments, such as during lunch breaks or downtime, rather than requiring them to undergo training after an already lengthy work shift. This approach not only minimizes burnout — a common outcome of extended training programs — but also facilitates better information retention. 

Live virtual training also offers employees the flexibility of accessing content from any location while retaining the ability to engage a live instructor and classmates during sessions. Many organizations use a blended approach that combines asynchronous and live virtual training to provide comprehensive and effective learning experiences for managers seeking to stay abreast of advancements. 

The role of facility managers in healthcare is pivotal and marked by constant evolution and high stakes. As technology continues to shape the landscape, embracing digital training becomes imperative. Managers’ multifaceted responsibilities — from involvement in design and construction to daily maintenance and incident readiness — demand continuous education to meet evolving safety requirements. With the expansive realm of codes and standards, staying ahead is only possible through ongoing professional development. 

Digital training emerges as a key facilitator, offering accessibility, flexibility and fresh learning methods. As healthcare facilities navigate the intricate balance of compliance and innovation, the investment in digital training ensures current competence and positions managers to seamlessly adapt to future safety standards. Through these proactive measures, healthcare facility managers can sustain a high-quality care environment, ensuring the safety and well-being of the facility and its occupants.

Bartholomew Jae is director of education and development with NFPA

February 28, 2024

Topic Area: Safety

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