If a hospital's heart is geared to health and healing, then Brad Cook maintains a finger on the pulse at Pullman Regional Hospital. He also reaches beyond the walls to volunteer in the community.
The hospital, located off busy Bishop Boulevard in a vibrant university town, opened in 2004 and was touted by local media as a high-tech facility with all the accouterments of a traditional hospital, plus the accommodating feel of a resort hotel.
Brad, one of four maintenance engineers, remembers the opening as a time to get acquainted with the 95,000 square-foot building by letting it pretty much mature on its own.
“The first year we moved in, we basically left everything alone.”
Today, Brad said, it's almost as if he's become a part of the hospital's infrastructure. “A lot of times I can walk in the building and know right away that something is not running, or something is making a noise that's not a normal sound. You pick up on it.”
Doctors, nurses and staff are the healing souls of the hospital, Brad said. But he and the other maintenance engineers working with him – including Manager Pat Wuestney, Mike Sanderson and Bob McLeod – work to ensure the facility stays warm in winter, cool in summer, comfortable year round, and otherwise provides a venue for providing the best health care possible.
“You take a lot of ownership in it,” said Brad, who lives with his wife, Linda, son Isaac, 15, and daughters Emily, 13, and Jessie, 7, on an eight-acre hobby farm about 16 miles away from Pullman near Colfax in Whitman County.
“The kids are home-schooled by Linda,” Brad said.
When he's not at work or at home with his family, Brad volunteers mostly through the Boy Scouts of America. After being a scout himself until he was 18, Brad, now 46, volunteers at Camp Grizzly across the border in Idaho's Latah County. The camp offers a place for scouts from all over the Pacific Northwest to assemble.
“I do a lot of work at Camp Grizzly. We have no permanent ranger, so there’s two of us that make sure everything is going, the camp is taken care of and the projects all get done. I kind of figured it up last year and I spent about 200 hours volunteer time up there.”
Brad’s son is working toward becoming an Eagle Scout. He works with Pullman Troop 460 of the Boy Scouts of America and was recently elected program chairman of the Chief Kamiakin District.
“I also do volunteer work at Camp Wooten, which is a Washington state environmental learning center. I do a bunch of volunteering down there,” said Brad, who was about to depart there for a weekend of spring cleanup.
Brad was born at Pullman Memorial Hospital, which was located on the campus of Washington State University prior to construction of the new and renamed Pullman Regional Hospital. He started working part-time at the old hospital in 1992, going full-time about two years later.
“That building went through a lot of renovation,” Brad said of the old hospital, quipping that its biggest problem was students parking in patient and employee parking spaces. The move to Bishop Boulevard, he said, not only solved the parking problem, but also elevated the level of health care on the Palouse.
“When this building was planned and designed, we had input,” Brad said of the maintenance engineers. “We were able to look at it, make recommendations and actually change a few things. We were on site a fair amount of time watching what was going on, understanding how the systems were supposed to work together. And that made a big difference.”
In this digital Internet age, Brad said, Pullman Regional Hospital has what amounts to a brain of its own driven by computers that are constantly monitored by the maintenance engineer staff.
“All this is computer-automated on a control system. So we can look at any point from anywhere in the world, as long as we have Web access. We can look at what's going on in the building and make adjustments. We can be on a beach in Hawaii and do the same thing.”
Air conditioning, heating, water, medical gasses piped to the emergency department and operating rooms, fire alarm and control systems, a backup electric generator system designed to start within seven seconds of a power failure – all of it is monitored around the clock by computers.
But the building, Brad said, still requires human oversight, the hands-on touch of custodians, computer technicians and sometimes repair of basic building functions.
From the heliport atop the hospital to the backup emergency generator room in the basement, Brad said he and the other maintenance engineers are charged with making sure the building remains safe, comfortable and operating as efficiently as it was designed and built.
“Being a small hospital, we do everything from working on the boilers to assembling desks in an office,” he said, “and everything and anywhere in between.”