Sept. 9, 2019 – In order to meet with as many of the environmental services team members as possible, I had the pleasure of visiting with two different groups of this large team on the same day! More commonly referred to as EVS, this team’s mission is to “provide excellent service to our kids and our customers and reduce infection by cleaning and sanitizing.” Just as medical staff care for our patients, EVS professionals work to keep our Hospital clean and everyone who walks through its doors healthy.
During both visits, I was greeted with enthusiastic cheers in the hallway as I entered the dining rooms next to the cafeteria (which definitely woke me up for the 6 a.m. visit!) Inside, EVS team members were stationed at tables organized by the department or area where they work, such as hem/onc, Rose 2, ACP 3, surgical services, floor care and so on. My first stop, though, was at a world map that showed where all of the EVS staff is from. This is an international group, with employees from countries including Africa, Canada, Mexico, Russia and the Philippines.
Next, I got a chance to see the EVS Command Center, a computer application that, among other things, manages room-cleaning requests in real time, tracking which housekeeper is assigned, priority level and turnaround time. It is all computerized, making the process extremely efficient. This is especially important when we’re busy and new patients need to be admitted as soon as possible.
Then, as I went from table to table and learned about the job responsibilities of each person, several themes emerged: This team takes great pride in what they do, they take their job seriously and, above all, they feel a great responsibility for the health of our patients. I heard comments such as the following:
- “I love to protect the kids and their families by disinfecting the room and making a difference in the kids’ life.”
- “When I am feeling tired and then see the smile of a child, it makes my day.”
- “We’re very proud of our job. We are a beautiful team. I’m grateful to be here in this family.”
- “We’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
- “I love the family and caring atmosphere.”
- “My daughter was a patient here, so I do my best for the kids.”
At one table, housekeeper Gidy Fantay, who has worked at Rady Children’s for 12 years, described the professional way she handles cleaning a patient room. She first introduces herself to the family, and then tells them what she will be doing in the room, how long she expects to be there and asks if there’s anything she can do for them. When she’s finished cleaning, she smiles and makes sure to tell them to have a nice day. These small, caring gestures can make a world of difference to a family whose child is in the Hospital.
Keeping rooms and surfaces clean and disinfected is a top priority for this team, and for good reason. A contaminated surface could result in a child getting an infection, and infections can kill. For example, children who stay in the bone marrow transplant rooms have compromised immune systems, so extreme care is taken to clean these rooms. I learned it can take up to eight hours to turn over one of these rooms, and sometimes they even need to vacuum the ceiling. An important part of maintaining this high standard is performing inspections of the rooms. Supervisors and leads perform about five random inspections per month and then score the cleanliness of the room. All of the data is tracked on a computer, and can be sorted by date, time, room, EVS attendant, building, unit and inspector.
This team also takes pride in the area or job duties to which they are assigned. The surgical services crew, for example, cleans the operating rooms between cases and knows that time is of the essence. If they slow down, cases can be delayed. Even with quick turnarounds, as little as six minutes, they take no shortcuts with disinfecting. A guidebook with photos and step-by-step instructions ensures the rooms are in top condition before they are cleared for the next case.
Other teams handle duties including mopping, stripping and waxing the floors to keep them clean and shiny; delivering supplies such as mops, rags and trash can liners; picking up dirty linens; and disposing of potentially hazardous waste including chemotherapy waste and sharps.
After I made the rounds, the team put me to work. This was an easy job, though: I got to draw raffle tickets from a bucket and call out the winning numbers. Winners received items including Rady Children’s-branded drink tumblers, first aid kits and even Star Wars movie tickets. I also came up a winner when, during the first visit, the team presented me with an environmental services polo shirt. I liked it so much I wore it to the second visit!
The housekeeper who cleans a patient room is just as important to our mission as the surgeon who performs a heart transplant. After all, one good housekeeper can prevent more diseases than a dozen doctors can cure. Thanks for hosting me during these two special visits, and for your positive attitude, commitment and passion for the families we serve.