“I’m different from these high-powered facilities managers from big hospitals. They would never be outside digging in the dirt, but that’s part of what makes my job fun,” says Jean Lantrip, facility manager, Ridgeview Psychiatric Hospital, Oak Ridge, TN, a nonprofit healthcare organization. Lantrip, fresh from a morning of planting hostas in front of the hospital’s Mobile Crisis Team office, is a very unusual facilities manager.
She oversees a collection of healthcare facilities serving low-income, mentally ill patients in Tennessee. Lantrip takes a hands-on approach to her role at Ridgeview, using imagination and a little elbow grease to help her diverse facilities run smoothly.
The Oak Ridge Mental Health Association started in 1957, operating from an apartment building, because concerned citizens recognized the need for affordable psychological counseling services for their community. From these humble beginnings, the organization now includes an acute inpatient hospital and has expanded services to over 16 sites in a five-county area. Ridgeview’s range of programs provides individualized care for adults and children.
In 1983, the organization was renamed Ridgeview Psychiatric Hospital and Center. Lantrip, a clinical social worker by training, is the organization’s first facilities manager. “My job is really a mixed bag. Most people don’t know what a facility manager does; they think of it as someone who just buys furniture. I wish that was all I had to do,” jokes Lantrip, who has served at Ridgeview for over 28 years. Her biggest challenge is creating space for her rapidly growing organization while keeping costs down. “That is one of the most critical tasks I believe for every nonprofit FM,” she says.
In addition to managing the traditional healthcare facilities, Lantrip oversees apartment buildings housing patients, drop-in centers, and a fleet of cars for the 24-hour Mobile Crisis Team and rehab programs. She also received her realtor’s license to handle leasing for the organization. With its nonprofit status, Ridgeview’s funding depends largely on state and federal funding with additional support from local United Way agencies. Lantrip and her staff of five rely on ingenuity to keep the diverse collection of 16 facilities in good order. Recently, they claimed an old brick fountain and created a koi pond, a restful, therapeutic environment for patients and staff.
According to Lantrip, the most difficult part of her job is making sure all of the facilities are up to the demanding standards of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations. “Everyone here is flexible. We are still small enough that when things start popping, I can just call on my staff and they pitch in, whatever the need. You never hear, ‘It’s not my job,’” she says.
To provide entry-level paid employment for clients who work in Ridgeview’s vocational program, Lantrip coordinates housekeeping and grounds maintenance jobs for several clients. This serves two purposes: It gives clients experience in the workday world and helps Ridgeview keep some costs down.
The resource Lantrip relies on most to help her accomplish her numerous, difficult tasks is the wisdom of other facilities managers. Twelve years ago, she helped found her local East Tennessee chapter of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA). Later, Lantrip joined IFMA’s Health Care Council. “We come together to share, because we have the same problems,” says Lantrip. She is also the editor of the Health Care Council’s newsletter.
Soon, Lantrip plans to pass on all of her years of experience by acquiring facility management software. Considering her legacy of helpfulness and education, Lantrip has left an indelible mark on her organization and the facilities management community. She sums up her work attitude with advice to other facilities professionals: “Keep a good sense of humor. Don’t take it too seriously, and have fun in your job.”Regina Raiford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.