Cleaning and Caring at the Core (and Heart) of Environmental Services
The Environmental Services (EVS) Department at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center is focused on keeping the hospital clean.
While that might sound like a simple job, it’s not.
There is a 20-point checklist that each EVS technician must follow when cleaning a patient room. This includes disinfecting light switches, sinks, restrooms, bed handrails, remote controls, call buttons, tables and countertops. Then there is the floor to sweep and mop, bed linens to change, trash cans to empty, vents to dust, closets to wipe down, baseboards to mop and scrub down and whiteboards to wipe clean. And this must all be done efficiently and thoroughly–and often with a patient and family members in the room.
Plus there is a particular process to follow: “There is an order to how cleaning and disinfecting is done, so that the technician doesn’t contaminate an area that’s already been worked on,” said Maxine Verbit, CRMC’s EVS director. “They essentially have to start in one area and back out of the room as they go.”
While cleaning is an EVS priority, it is not the only focus.
“Several years ago we could hire employees whose main skill set was their ability to clean well and who could handle the physical challenge of doing that all day,” said Verbit, who has worked in environmental services for eight years and has been at CRMC for a year.
“Today, many EVS employees interact with our patients and visitors and of course with other employees, so it’s really important that they have good customer relations and customer service skills,” said Vicky Nanney, CRMC’s assistant director of EVS.
“Years ago we didn’t have to consider a person’s technology skills,” Verbit said.
These days all EVS employees must be able to log into and work within CRMC’s electronic medical record system, noting when a room has been cleaned and is ready to receive a new patient.
EVS employees also carry pagers so that they can communicate with each other and can be reached immediately by their supervisors.
“We start each day with a plan, but at the hospital things are always changing. So in addition to having caring attitudes, a good work ethic and being detail-oriented, our employees must also be willing to adapt, to change their schedule at a moment’s notice,” Verbit said.
‘We Pull Together’
It can be a lot to juggle.
“We know that this is not easy work, but we also try to hire people who will offer each other caring and support,” Nanney said.
One sign of the department’s successful hiring is that it has several long-term employees, including two who have worked in the department for more than 30 years and two who have worked in the department for more than 45 years.
“In many ways we are like family,” said Nanney, who has been at CRMC for 19 years. “We have good and bad days. But when things get tough, we pull together.”
First Impressions Count
The department of 53 employees also takes great pride in what they do.
“We understand the importance of making a good first impression when people walk through our front door,” Verbit said. “We want our patients and visitors to feel like all areas of the hospital are clean-looking, clean-feeling and clean-smelling.”
Ensuring a clean and neat hospital environment helps reduce anxiety for patients and family members.
“People coming here already have a lot to deal with,” Verbit said. “We don’t want to add to their stress by making them feel nervous about the environment they are in.”
To that end, all of CRMC’s EVS technicians go through a 37-module training program that covers everything from safe handling of items contaminated with blood-borne pathogens to how to handle and dispose of hazardous waste to how to safely and properly disinfect and deep clean patient rooms and other areas of the hospital.
Striving to Improve
EVS is also committed to making process improvements. The team meets daily to review assignments and review any concerns. They also regularly review the department’s patient experience scores and patient comments about their work.
For example, the Mother/Baby unit gets a lot of visitors so the rooms need to be tidied up more often. There can also be more need for clean linens and more trash to empty, due to the number of visitors and the nature of the care provided.
Patient comments led the team to add a mid-dayshift employee on the unit, to help freshen up the patient rooms. Larger trash cans were also added to each room.
Having another technician available to help with the workload has improved patient experience scores related to the unit’s cleanliness by double digits over the past year.
EVS is also involved in a hospital-wide initiative to make patient areas quieter, especially at night.
“We are working with the Nursing department to find ways to reduce noise, to help promote better sleep and recovery for patients,” Verbit said. This includes ensuring that the cleaning carts don’t squeak when they are rolled down hallways and being extra sensitive about letting patients rest.
If there were one word to describe what EVS is and does, what would that be?
“Caring,” Verbit and Nanney agreed.
“We care about what we do for our patients, but we also care about the relationships we develop with our colleagues in the hospital, and we care for each other here in EVS,” Verbit said.
So while cleaning is at the core of the EVS mission, caring is at the heart of all they do.