By: Hagan Kappler
Modern healthcare is based on two important principles originally ascribed to Hippocrates: help the sick and abstain from doing harm.
Physicians are sworn to these ideals. Nurses and others in healthcare promise the same.
These goals are certainly true for Environmental Services directors and staff. They serve on the frontline of infection control at hospitals, clinics, ambulatory surgery centers and senior care facilities. They must do their jobs with consistent excellency for sick patients to heal. If infections exist, then patient harm can occur.
Yesterday’s hospital housekeeping staff has evolved into today’s Environmental Services department. Healthcare experts recognized some time ago that surface cleaning was insufficient for hospitals and clinics. Patient care requires infection prevention, a higher level of clean that kills pathogens and deactivates viruses, both of which can seriously threaten those who already are immunocompromised.
To be successful in their mission, EVS personnel must understand the science of disinfection and be taught proper cleaning techniques. For these reasons, organizations such as the Association for the Health Care Environment (AHE) have established various certification programs to promote learning in the critical field of healthcare infection prevention.
“It’s important that environmental service technicians be taught the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of hospital cleaning,” explained Steve Zimmerman, Director of Healthcare Services for ServiceMaster Clean. Zimmerman holds CHESP (Certified Health Care Environmental Services Technician and T-CSCT (Teacher – Certified Surgical Cleaning Technician) designations. In his role, Zimmerman in the lead trainer for ServiceMaster Clean franchisees nationwide.
“If a person wants to excel in environmental services, they must prove competency,” said Zimmerman. “Accreditations are the training platform that teach the science behind cleaning and infection prevention. These programs raise the professionalism of environmental services, but more importantly, they help ensure a higher level of safety for patients and the clinical staff who care for them.”
Zimmerman pointed out that EVS technicians must understand how infections spread and how they can be stopped.
“Learning proper cleaning techniques and the right products to use is very important, but even more important is to learn infection prevention. The goal is more than just a clean facility, the ultimate goal is to create a pathogen-free environment. Trainees should know that their work can be life-saving and every detail of their job is important.”
ServiceMaster Clean technicians are encouraged to seek AHE certifications, and there are several. Healthcare facilities want certified EVS professionals in order to achieve their primary mission – promote healing and protect patients. Infection control begins at the front door of the facility and extends to the waiting rooms, exam and patient rooms and to operating rooms, where surgery cleaning expertise is critical. With certification comes greater knowledge and confidence, as well as a sense of pride in the profession.
Hospitals, ASCs and clinics may have their own EVS departments or they may outsource these vital services. When looking for an EVS provider, it’s helpful to know how much emphasis they put on training and certification. The thoroughness of their training and adherence to proven protocols help assure the quality of work at your facility
Zimmerman and other EVS experts recommend 4-6 weeks of training for all new environmental service technicians. According to Zimmerman, the first week is a get-acquainted period to teach the basics of the job and learn the nomenclature. Classroom or online training sessions are recommended during this time, along with observation of EVS work being done.
The next 3-4 weeks should be spent under the tutelage of an experience EVS technician. The experienced employee will be a mentor for the trainee, who will shadow the trainer during the course of their workday. Obviously, it is important that the trainer should be highly competent and a good communicator and teacher. The trainee should be allowed to take on increasingly important tasks as they progress through this period. This includes not only cleaning duties but interaction with clinical staff and patients when appropriate. Final training may include a written exam or observation of daily duties and grading by a supervisor.
Once a technician has been on the job and proven their capabilities, their supervisors will encourage certification training, much of which can be done online.
Well-trained technicians will quickly learn that as a healthcare professional, their responsibilities are primarily to the patient. Healing the sick and doing no harm must include infection prevention at every healthcare facility. Training and certification are essential to achieve these goals.
About the author:
Hagan Kappler is Operations President for ServiceMaster Clean, one of the largest healthcare cleaning services in the US