A Profile of Melissa Petracca
A Unique Peacock in the Field

Melissa A. Petracca

Melissa A. Petracca
Facilities Manager
Matheny Medical & Educational Center

How does someone with a Bachelor of Science in clinical psychology become a facility manager?

Melissa Petracca graduated from college, then realized she didn’t want to go to grad school, so she switched to finance. She worked in wealth management for seven years, but she was let go. Sounds like an OMG moment, but instead she found an amazing opportunity to care for people and their environments at Matheny Medical and Educational Center.

“I took a hard look and realized I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. I wanted to get into the non-profit world, so I started volunteering. I came across Matheny through volunteering and a family friend. The only position I was qualified for was a receptionist position,” she said.

Six months later, after getting hired, she found herself in the facilities department helping prepare for a Joint Commission survey.

The department had new leadership, and a new staff, so the timing was perfect. With experience in compliance, organization and problem-solving, she felt right at home in Matheny. Now, she’s the facility manager.

“I see myself as a unique peacock in the field,” she said.

“Matheny’s mission speaks to me,” said Melissa. “I’m making a difference. I have a hand in daily patient care by making sure their surroundings are safe.”

Starting as a coordinator was perfect as she began learning about fire pumps, generators, and exit lights from veteran team members and managers with years of experience. Accumulating knowledge is an ongoing process best absorbed in the field, she realized, not at a desk.

Melissa oversees seven field mechanics at Matheny, which includes the main hospital, ancillary buildings, and several group homes housing 5-8 patients, altogether covering about 160,000 square feet. The organization serves the cerebral palsy community and those with developmental disabilities. The group homes are for people who benefit from community living. It’s like a long-term care facility with hospital level care. The homes look like residential homes. Average patient stays are measured in years.

“I can easily say I know every single patient in the hospital,” said Melissa.

Life is a bit of a balancing act for Melissa who has two kids under the age of 10, but she’s absorbed in daily operations, being with the people and making sure the hospital is in tip top shape. At home, Melissa loves to cook Italian dishes and she takes ballet classes, in addition to chasing after her kids.

“This has all been a happy accident, 100% unplanned,” she said. “Fortunately, we have a solid framework for success, but I still have so much to learn.” Melissa has had three different mentors at the hospital, each with a different style, and she’s applying different elements from each of these folks with her own team. She wants her team to feel comfortable with having balance in their personal lives, too. While Melissa comes from a background where organization and compliance are key, things don’t always go according to plan in healthcare and there are unplanned events that happen all the time that need to be examined, understood, and resolved quickly and calmly.

For example, the hospital, which had been on well water, converted to municipal water, which created an emergency. At the same time, they lost power and access to water for the entire hospital. Melissa and her team improvised by filling up buckets and getting bottled water to patients. Vendors and subcontractors were contacted and together a solution was implemented. “It’s important to realize what and why we went wrong,” said Melissa.

Melissa shared that her greatest accomplishment at Matheny has been conducting a Joint Commission Survey, specifically the documentation review for the environment of care portion, by herself. “That was a tremendous confidence builder,” she said.

To build on the confidence she’s gained in the field, Melissa is furthering her facility knowledge by reading books like Chief Joy Officer by Richard Sheridan and being active in ASHE and the Healthcare Facility Management Society of New Jersey.

“I am seeing more women making the career shift to operations, which is great, because women tend to be both empathetic and work well with people. The rest can be taught,” she said. For women curious about careers in facility management, Melissa said, “Say yes to opportunities right in front of you and believe in yourself.”


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