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First academic certificate planned in healthcare environmental services

Janet Kiplinger Ciccone
May 02, 2017

Hospitality and healthcare industries to benefit from undergraduate initiative to be created by Ohio State and the Association for the Healthcare Environment

Undergraduate students in hospitality management, as well as existing healthcare professionals, soon will expand the boundaries of management and leadership opportunities within their disciplines.  

In a groundbreaking partnership, the College of Education and Human Ecology and the Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE) recently kicked off talks to create the first academic certificate in healthcare environmental services within a hospitality management program.

“The collaborative venture with a major university will benefit both the healthcare and hospitality professions,” said Patti Costello, executive director of AHE, a Professional Membership Group of the American Hospital Association (AHA). “Early adopters in either field will gain a competitive edge by choosing highly trained graduates who understand how to ensure health and wellness in both the healthcare environmental services and hospitality fields.” 

Georgie Shockey, an alumna and consultant to the healthcare field, saw an ideal connection between Ohio State and AHE, which works with AHA’s membership of more than 5,000 acute care hospitals and healthcare networks. She introduced Costello to key faculty in EHE’s Hospitality Management program. 

Adding a critically needed expertise

The academic certificate program offers a niche opportunity for enhanced knowledge and skills of graduates — including epidemiology and infection prevention. The added expertise will increase students’ marketability and choice of jobs. 

“As I learned about the new certificate, I thought about the many parallels between a healthcare environment and a more traditional hotel or restaurant hospitality environment,” said Sue Bellan, an alumna of hospitality management and general manager of Columbus Hospitality Management.

“This certificate elevates a candidate’s or employee’s knowledge base in several disciplines within the hotel and restaurant setting, including housekeeping, engineering, food service and even sales and marketing. I do encourage hospitality management students to consider obtaining this certificate.”

Ohio State students in the hospitality management program will be recruited first for the certificate initiative, as will students in other majors concerned with environmental health and safety. Next, a focus will be placed on the large, outside audience of existing healthcare and hospitality professionals. 

The certificate content 

Milos Bujisic, assistant professor of hospitality management, is creating the initial academic course — anticipated in autumn 2017. It will include a discussion of the business of healthcare and analysis of its critical areas and challenges in relation to the hospitality business. Learners will develop the required critical-thinking skills needed to apply expertise in healthcare environmental services in either healthcare or hospitality settings.

The next academic year, three additional courses will follow to form the undergraduate certificate program. They will cover microbiology, epidemiology and infection prevention, patient experience in healthcare, as well as a healthcare environmental services internship. The program will be delivered primarily online.

Ohio State and AHE will collaborate to provide the critically important internship in a hospital or other healthcare setting. It will provide students with hands-on practice to help direct them to the professional venue that most appeals to them.

The competitive advantage

Fiona Nemetz, former president of AHE and systems director of environmental services, safety and security at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, began her career in hospitality and later moved to healthcare. She emphasized the flexibility that students will gain. 

“To work in the healthcare field, you must be able communicate with executive leadership, physicians and other clinicians and be able to make recommendations using evidence-based information,” she said. “The certificate will open a pipeline to qualified talent for healthcare and hospitality organizations.

“Students can leverage their expertise to help leaders meet standards and offer the best in safety and infection control. The potential for increased compensation goes up as the level of expertise goes up, which is also very satisfying.”

Aleese Sarrouh, a senior in hospitality management, said broadening one’s expertise always offers positives. “Having the technical knowledge this certificate would bring, combined with the management and people skills gained in hospitality, would create a combination difficult for other graduates to compete with,” she said. 

Shockey emphasized that the certificate program will make graduates stronger for whatever industry segment they chose. 

“I believe the hospitality industry is increasingly interested in hiring educated experts who know how to manage environmental services to protect guests’ comfort and health.”


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