By: Steve Zimmerman, MBA, CHESP, T-CSCT, Director of Healthcare Services for ServiceMaster Clean
Healing is the goal of every hospital. To promote healing, hospitals must provide an infection-free environment. The work of the environmental services department (EVS) is vital to that effort.
EVS is far more than just housekeeping. In addition to cleaning floors and restrooms, EVS personnel are on the frontline of infection prevention. Their job is to work collaboratively with clinical staff to ensure pathogens are inactivated and removed as a threat to patients. To accomplish this, the EVS team requires qualified training, modern equipment and the support of hospital administration.
Environmental services professionals know that the tools and techniques for healthcare facility cleaning have changed over time and continue to evolve and improve. Old-fashioned methods and products have been replaced. Cleaning protocols have changed to improve results. Staff training and evaluation are ongoing processes. Thanks to modern advances, EVS are helping facilities reduce hospital-associated infections (HAIs) to near zero.
Some hospitals have their own EVS departments while other, often smaller hospitals, are outsourcing this vital service. In either case, it is essential that EVS is elevated to the priority it deserves – a key player in patient wellness.
Preventing hospital-associated infections is essential to patient wellness, healing and satisfaction. Nothing will sink a hospital’s reputation faster than HAIs.
Creating an infection-free facility begins at the top with a commitment from management to environmental services. With the full support of hospital administration, EVS personnel can be properly trained, equipped and motivated to clean consistently at the highest level. Collaborating with clinical staff, EVS can create an ultra-clean environment that promotes healing, is attractive and elevates patient satisfaction scores.
A High-performing EVS team requires sufficient financial commitment, but there is significant return on this investment. Hospital morale improves when the facility is not only clean but infection-free. Likewise, efficiencies are often enhanced because EVS staff have the training and tools to perform their tasks better (more work, more efficiently). Most import, patients receive care in a cleaner, safer environment, thus fulfilling the hospital’s most important mission – healing.
The days of the broom, mop and bleach in the hospital setting are gone. Today’s tools and products are far superior for cleaning and disinfecting.
Disposable, micro-fiber cleaning pads and cloths are now used for floors and flat surfaces. These materials trap dust, dirt and small particulates rather that stir them up and make them airborne. The idea is to capture dirt and particulates so they can be removed. Likewise, vacuums with HEPA filters are used to trap the tiniest particulate matter.
Bleaches and aerosol-type cleaners also are gone, having been replaced by EPA-registered, hospital-grade cleaners and disinfectants. These products are highly effective without having noxious odors that can trigger respiratory problems. As a plus, you now can clean virtually every surface in the hospital with only a couple of products.
Modern, ride-on chariot-type floor cleaners do a superb job of keeping hospital floors gleaming, and floors are typically the first thing a guest notices when they enter your facility.
Professional EVS training is vital to achieve an attractive, infection-free hospital environment.
Efficiency and effectiveness are central to a modern EVS department. Proper cleaning techniques and procedures can mean greater productivity in fewer man-hours. That means rooms are turned faster, daily tasks are accomplished more quickly and better results are achieved.
All personnel must be trained to work safely. Make sure team members understand how to use tools and products properly. Emphasize the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand hygiene, and make sure everyone reads and understands the safety data safety sheets on all cleaning products.
Modern EVS techniques call for cleaning high-to-low and clean-to-dirty; that is, start with the cleanest surfaces first and from the top of the room downward in order to prevent previously cleaned surfaces from becoming dirty again as you progress through the room. Remove and discard cleaning pads after you finish a room. Identify and thoroughly clean all high-touch surfaces with disinfecting cleaning products.
Today’s EVS technician has a significant role in patient satisfaction, and that includes interacting with each patient in a friendly and professional way. Team members are taught to greet every patient and explain why they are in the room. Their goal is to represent the hospital well and help ensure the patient’s comfort and safety.
EVS is far more than just housekeeping in today’s healthcare environment. Your environmental services department can play an important role in patient wellness if they are trained and equipped properly.
About the author
Steve Zimmerman, MBA, CHESP, T-CSCT is Director of Healthcare Services for ServiceMaster Clean, one of the nation’s leading providers of professional healthcare environmental services supporting 2,000+ facilities. He is the Co-Chair of AHE’s advisory council and a member of the planning and industry liaison committee. He has experience as an ES Director and consultant in medical facilities across the country. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.