Today I launched my Certified Healthcare Constructor (CHC) practice exam.  It’s been a lot of work up to this point, but it’s great to have it up and available.  

I thought it may be appropriate to add a little background information.  In 2015 when I was studying for the CHC exam, I looked and searched for resources available and found an extremely limited amount of information and study guides available.  The CHC credential had been launched only about 5 years earlier by ASHE, and was still in its infancy.  Ultimately, I pulled from a lot of CHFM study materials, but supplemented those with other information.  To help myself study, I wrote practice exam questions.  By the time I was ready to sit for the exam, I had about 100 questions or so drafted up, in addition to the free CHFM practice questions available at the time.  

In the past 3 years there’s starting to be more information available, including a page on ASHE’s CHC website with CHC preparation resources.  Unfortunately, much of the information can be costly to assemble.  After ASHE listed the preparation resources, I recalled my frustrations with finding suitable study materials, and immediately thought of the practice questions I had written.  I reviewed, updated, and expanded the selection so now there are 200 questions available to help round out your study efforts.  I will update them periodically as the codes update.  

I set my pricepoint under $100 so it’s economical for those who don’t want a whole course, but do want something to polish off their preparation before they take the real test.  Lets face it: you’ve been working in healthcare construction for several years before you even consider taking the certification test.  There’s a lot you know, and a few areas that you don’t work as regularly in.  You don’t want to take a few days off work to take a course.  This quiz will help you study.  I also made it available for 180 days.  This gives more value than options which cost more, but only allow you to take a practice exam one time. 


In early 2017, I sat down with my boss for a small discussion.  We were having my annual review, a time to look back over the past year’s performance, and also look forward to the upcoming year and set some performance goals.  The discussion was fairly brief: “Excellent across the board.  You’ve got a raise!  Have you considered another credential, such as CHFM or CFM?”  Have you had a similar discussion?  Odds are you likely have. 

To be honest, I’d considered it slightly, but wasn’t completely sold on it either.  I spent the next several months working on continuing education for another credential or two, getting ahead of the education requirements for the renewal cycle.  But the thought in the back of my mind was there.  One of the difficulties of juggling multiple credentials is staying on top of the professional development or continuing education requirements for each.  Credentials offer a benchmark of competence, shouting to peers and professionals “This man is competent.”, but also carry with them the burden of maintaining them, especially when one has multiple credentials.  This burden is felt through keeping track of renewal dates, managing education hours, and paying the renewal costs.  The biggest concern I had was the education hours.  Many credentials have a two or three year cycle, with about 15-20 hours per year of continuing education needed to maintain them.  For instance, the Certified Healthcare Constructor (CHC) requires 45 hours of education on a three-year cycle, making for about 15 hours annually of required education.

I continued to wrestle with the decision: CFM or CHFM?  Do I really want to do this?  Ultimately, I determined that I would prepare for the CHFM exam.  The determining factor came down to continuing education.  Because the CHC and CHFM are both credentials offered by ASHE, the maintenance requirements are largely congruent.  Ease of maintenance.  One stop shopping.  Done deal.    I began to study for the CHFM.  Right off the bat I noticed two huge differences between studying for the CHFM and CHC.  The first difference was the amount of available resources.  There are an abundance of resources available for one studying for the CHFM.  When I prepared several years ago for the CHC exam, there was relatively nothing available for CHC-centric studying.  The second difference was the breadth of material. To me, the CHC seemed to be a certification focused on well-rounded, depth based knowledge about healthcare construction.  The design of it was fairly fixed breadth, but with moderate depth, an understanding being that there are specialists and consultants out there to fill in the depth of certain knowledge areas such as med gas, commissioning, and sustainability.  CHFM was different.  As I studied, the emphasis seemed to be on breadth; reminding me of the saying “A mile wide and an inch deep.”  There literally seemed to be no end of items I could study or become familiar with.

I settled into a routine.  Wake up early, study for an hour or so, then get ready and go to work.  About mid-point in my routine of studying and exam prep, I started asking myself “Am I ready for this?”.  As I continued to study and prepare, my question evolved into another one.  “Is it the right time?”.  Some questions there is no answer for, just like some of the questions I read on the CHFM exam.  But “Is it the right time?” there is an answer for. 

I concluded that being prepared for the CHFM exam is like being ready to have children.  One is never “ready”, but there does reach a point that the time is right.  Just as with parenthood, you have a little more time for preparation to get ready once the “time is right.”  I felt the time was right to book my exam.        

On a cool day late in the year I made the drive to the testing center, walked in, and sat for the CHFM exam.  My wife asked the kids as I returned if they thought I passed or failed.  “Pass” chirped a response. My 6-year-old rained down invectives: “FAIL! FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!”  I walked in with a swagger, sat down with a grin, and had a good laugh as she told her story.  I love answers to questions of timing.  Some things really do come down to the right time.


  • At a bare minimum, use the dollars available from your employer to maintain the credentials you have, or to acquire one. It doesn’t matter that you have funding available if you don’t use it.




I tend to be very deliberate when I pick a certification to pursue. There are lots of certifications out there, but part of the trick is knowing which ones to go for, and which ones would be better left unacquired. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of great certifications out there, but each one has an initial cost, as well as costs in time and money in order to maintain it. I have a limited budget of both time and money, so when I’m trying to get my continuing education units, I want them to be as multi-purpose as I can get. That way, I can use the synergies between credentials and apply continuing education units (CEUs) to multiple certifications. This makes the overall cost of ownership for each certification go down.



With any new certification once you’ve passed the exam, take a moment to celebrate and relax and bask in your accomplishment. Then, since you’re already in study mode, get back to work to earn the CEUs quickly. This will capitalize on your mindset of studying and also extend your maintenance window. Instead of procrastinating earning those hours, you will have front loaded your study cycle, which effectively prolongs the time you have to maintain your credential. Many credentials are on three-year cycles. If you continue studying, and knock out all or most of the required CEUs quickly, you have effectively made it (paying the renewal fee excepted) so that you have six years before you need to worry about those hours again.

For example, the first certification exam I sat for and passed was the Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute. This credential is a very good general all-around sort of credential. It shows you’ve got several years of project management experience, and that you’ve made an effort to standardize your vocabulary into terms and phrases that are applicable in many industries. The PMP is a great “gateway certification”. It is recognizable in many career fields and has the bar set high enough you can’t just walk through the door, take the test, and walk out with a few new letters behind your name. The requirements are higher then that, but low enough that with a basic amount of experience and studying one can sit for and pass the exam. Its great advantage of being generally applicable is countered by the weakness that it is in many regards too general, and many industries require more specialized knowledge.

When I first had my PMP, I worked for a company that, among other things, provided project management training. Getting professional development hours was very easy and straightforward. When work was slow for a day or two, I would check if there was a class we were offering that wasn’t full. If so, I’d sit in and enjoy the class, then apply the hours on the certificate toward maintaining my PMP.



My next career stop wasn’t so easy when it came to maintaining credentials. In fact, I think it’s the situation that most professionals are in. My work had a professional development budget that we were allowed to use annually, but we didn’t offer courses. So, I had money to pay for courses, but I had to find outside sources and courses that fit within my budget, as well as my schedule. It’s certainly doable, and is the situation where most people find themselves in. I am still in this situation, and have several years of experience with it. I’ve discovered that there are ways to maximize what I get out of professional development courses. Here’s what I’ve learned.

I’ve found that there are some ways that are better uses of a professional development budget than others. Companies provide professional development dollars for a lot of reasons. Professional education benefits provide employers several advantages: they’re used to attract employees, they’re a business expense, frequently they’re a “use or lose” format which makes them either a writeoff for taxes or greater profit for the owners, they can lead to greater satisfaction of employees, they lead to more certifications and competencies within the workplace (which leads to more business), etc. In the most basic form professional education leads to more satisfaction among employees, a lower corporate tax burden, and greater corporate competency. It’s a win-win proposition. The bottom line is this: Employers WANT you to use the funds they give you for professional development. Regrettably, most employees don’t take advantage of this perk.


At a bare minimum, use the dollars available to maintain the credentials you have, or to acquire one. It doesn’t matter that you have funding available if you don’t use it.

My professional career has benefited and grown directly due to using my company’s professional development program.



The second stage of credential maintenance is finding continuing education hours for free, in order to use the funding you have to attend a course you really want or to pay for another certification. This is a generally straightforward process. It starts by becoming familiar with the credentialing organization’s requirements for credential maintenance. Typically there are self-study options. One of my favorite self-study techniques is reading a book that’s relevant to my credential. I can then apply the time reading toward maintaining my credential. I also browse the continuing education trainings available on the organization’s website. These often require paying a fee, but frequently there are free options intermingled with the others. If you can sort the offerings by cost, it helps highlight trainings you can take for free. In addition to the free classes, I have found other courses that have sounded interesting. A third method I use is seeking free trainings offered by closely related organizations. Identifying the relationships, then searching the other organization for training resources can be of great benefit. Another overlooked option for finding free professional development hours is in the mandatory and volunteer trainings that your job requires. Most credentialing organizations require a certificate or proof of training in order to get credit for sitting through a course. If there’s not a certificate offered, speak with the trainer before the class begins and explain your situation. Frequently they will be willing to accommodate and will pass a sign-in sheet around for those wanting a certificate of completion. This is especially valuable for multi-day trainings.


The third stage is close behind the second stage and is stacking your efforts so that the efforts you place toward maintaining one credential or certification will apply toward two or more. This of course requires you to have more than one certification. But, this isn’t a bad thing, as you grow in your career you’ll naturally want to expand your knowledge and benchmark it for others to identify. Generally there will be overlap between credentials you choose to pursue and attain. If you study the credential maintenance requirements for both credentials, you’ll discover areas of overlap. Once you’ve done that, you can target trainings that will meet requirements for both. Even if the alignment isn’t perfect, you can frequently extract a few hours for each. For example, an 8 hour course may be completely applicable to one credential, but only have 3 hours of relevent training for another. This is a great opportunity if you choose to identify it! Often, we can get so focused on certain points, we fail to look at the bigger picture, and miss out on these secondary CEU opportunities because of it.


The last stage in credential maintenance is selecting your CEU courses by personal interest. This will mean that you’ve built up a buffer on the maintenance intervals, and can be very selective on courses to fill in knowledge gaps, expand your personal interests, or fulfill professional needs. This last stage is a great place to be. It shows that you enjoy your career and take pride in what you do, but also recognize that others have things to offer. Reaching this last point in credential maintenance makes your efforts personally and professionally satisfying and seemingly effortless. It means that you’ve worked hard, but also worked smart. Through the process to reach this point, you’ve probably come to realize that working hard is important, and working smart is important, but combining them together is where the true secret of success is.



One final point: attending off-site trainings can be a great way to squeeze a few additional vacation days for your family out of a busy professional schedule. Any rational employer recognizes that your place of employment is in class when you’re taking a training course. If the course is several hours or hundreds of miles away from home and you throw in a few of your own vacation days into the mix, your family can have a great trip for the small disadvantage of having dad in class for 2-3 days(with evenings free). I’ve had memorable 8 day vacations, and only burned 2 vacation days to do so with this technique in conjunction with a 3 day course. I’ve discovered that when these off-site trainings are available, my family really enjoys coming with me and loves to report at the end of the day all of the great experiences they had while I was in class.

One of the common questions

people have after they’ve worked on or in hospitals and healthcare facilities for a while is “Which ASHE certification should I get?” It’s a valid question. That said, there are two underlying assumptions and a career question that also need to be understood before answering the question.


  • The credential issuing body is valid

  • Certifications are useful in fowarding a career

  • You understand the expectations you have and the direction you want to take your career





The American Society for Healthcare Engineering, or ASHE, is the largest and most recognized association for healthcare facility professionals.  “With more than 12,000 members, ASHE is the largest association devoted to professionals who design, build, maintain, and operate hospitals and other health care facilities. ASHE members include health care facility managers, engineers, architects, designers, constructors, infection control specialists, and others.”  ASHE seeks to provide direction, training, and standardization of best practices for facility managers, designers, and constructors.  These practices are geared toward code compliance and maintaining the best environments for patients and visitors of healthcare facilities.  As they claim “ASHE is committed to our members, the facilities they build and maintain, and the patients they serve.”



Choosing to acquire either the Certified Health Facility Manager (CHFM) or Certified Healthcare Constructor (CHC) certification is an aspiration worth pursuing.  It will create opportunities for career advancement and denotes a stability and competency that healthcare organizations often demand.  Part of this is associated with the issuing body (ASHE) being a sub-group of the American Hospital Association (AHA), and part of the prestige is due to the requirements being strict enough that not everybody can pay some money and walk out with the certification.  Before being able to take the test one must demonstrate 5-10 years of healthcare facility or construction experience, with a college degree reducing the time of direct experience needed.

I have searched for information detailing how the CHFM or CHC credentials affect one’s career and have discovered that there’s really not a whole lot of information out there beyond two surveys done by Health Facility Manager Magazine.  The survey I initially became acquainted with was their 2012  Salary Survey, which was updated in 2015.  Both articles are excellent reading and offer great insight to the healthcare facility world.  The most exciting news for those seeking certifications is found on page 3 of the 2015 survey, where it outlines that credential holders are payed up to 25% more than non-credential holders, and that credential holders are preferred when it comes to making hiring decisions.  


Personally, I saw the benefits of the certification when shortly after I passed my CHC credential exam I received a 20% raise and a promotion.


The third variable when deciding which ASHE certification to pursue is yourself and your career and life aspirations.  Healthcare contractors can be very well compensated, but frequently have a greater instability than facility managers do.  Facility managers can be well compensated, but generally have more stability than contractors.  Your desires and interests all play a role in the best path for you.




So, back to the first question: “Which ASHE certification should I get?”  It really depends on you and your chosen career path. Facility Managers (CHFM) and hospital constructors (CHC) both have challenging and rewarding careers.  The facility manager career track is typically very stable and suited to someone who likes a routine and going to the same place to work every day.  The healthcare constructor career track can be more variable and offers something new every day, but this newness may require traveling to different construction sites as construction projects inevitably come to an end.  Ultimately, the knowledge required for the CHFM and CHC certifications has a high degree of overlap.  As I looked for practice exams, study guides, and materials to study for the CHC exam, much of what I studied was CHFM material. Either credential is likely preferred for open management positions dealing directly with healthcare facilities.  However, having the CHC credential will give you more confidence in applying for project type positions, while the CHFM credential will give you more confidence in  applying for operations type positions.


Employed vs. Employable

Are you securely employed?  

Have you been impacted by an unstable economy?  

Do you desire more security?  

Do you want to know the secret to being securely employed?

I’ve thought quite a bit about this and have concluded that job security is not equal to being employed.  Instead, job security comes from being employable.  Now before you shout me down or write me off for being crazy, hear me out. Yes, there is an assurance and confidence associated with being employed, being a producer and productive.  But having a job isn’t enough to be secure.  I’ve had jobs before where I felt little to no job security.  Yes, I had work, but at one place I was limited by the glass ceiling of not being family in a family-owned business.  Another job I had was a never ending stream of brainless tasks.  Moving irrigation lines on a dairy farm was another job that wasn’t going to go away any time soon.  We’ve all been there, or know somebody that has.  But an enjoyable life is more than that.   All of these jobs were just that- jobs.  Clock in for a paycheck.  Getting paid to do, not to think.  Jobs that became so miserable that I brought them home with me.  Those were the worst ones, the ones my wife encouraged me to quit because being miserable wasn’t worth the paycheck.  Where’s the security in that?  There is none.

How to be employable

What’s the solution, the secret of being securely employed?  Simple, it’s to be employable.  This goes beyond showing up on time and working hard, but certainly includes those.  You don’t even have to be passionate about your job.  We’ve all heard the line about doing what you love and making it work.  For most of us that’s not a realistic option.  I picked the compromise of finding a career that I enjoy that I can support a family on rather then being a fishing guide and living a reduced lifestyle.  I’m happy with what I do and can imagine doing it for the next 30 years.  There’s room to grow, it challenges me, and I have the qualifications that if I were fired tomorrow I could go and find another job within a reasonable time.  Now that’s the secret of job security! I’m not just employed, I’m employable.
I suppose you’re wondering how this ties in to Health Facility Pro.  Simple. I’ve found a career that I enjoy (note the distinction between being enjoyable and being passionate), and have worked to increase my competencies and abilities within that field.  This work is shown to others in part by the certifications I have received.  Now, I want to encourage and help others working in healthcare facilities management and construction to do the same.  

It’s a challenging field, but one that is enjoyable and highly rewarding and in which job security can be found.