Actions speak louder than words, so they say. But sometimes a kind word to staff for a job well done — no matter how routine it may seem — can be just as powerful.

That and the importance of collaboration among departments and staff are at the core of OneTogether: The Power of Small Actions, a program established by 3M's infection prevention division, one year ago this month.

Founded with nine health care associations, including the Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE), OneTogether is a free resource offering help and guidance to environmental services (ES) departments and all health care staff needing assistance in the fight against health care-associated infections (HAIs).

The findings in a white paper called "Educate, Empower, Engage: A Collaborative Interdisciplinary Call to Action for Reducing Surgical-Site Infections" presented at the 3M Infection Prevention Leadership Summit in 2011 served as the foundation for OneTogether.

The paper's conclusion? "Although scientific knowledge is important, it will not solve the problem of HAIs by itself," says Silvia M. Perez, global business vice president, 3M infection prevention division. "More attention to behavioral science and leadership behavior as well as engagement of hospital leaders and staff at all levels are needed to make a difference."

Because the front-line ES workers are a critical part of the effort, the program came up with a simple way for departmental leaders to acknowledge them for doing a good job with a series of thank-you cards. It's all about changing the culture to one of positive reinforcement and engaging the staff to do the right thing, Perez says.

"Preventing HAIs is a complex issue that takes a coordinated, multidisciplinary effort," says Patti Costello, executive director, AHE, one of the program's original supporting organizations.

"The value of the OneTogether movement is the demonstration of how small actions can have a broad impact on HAI challenges as a whole from hand hygiene to best practices that foster prevention," she says.

Kevin Bussiere, infection preventionist, Sentara Leigh Hospital, Norfolk, Va., points to his experience using OneTogether's goal of culture change as proof it can make a difference in taking steps to stop HAIs. Sentara tried to teach ES staff how to follow the same five steps each time they cleaned patient rooms, a process that had only 20 percent compliance when a checklist and managerial threats were utilized.

Taking a page from OneTogether, the department tried to make learning the correct regimen more fun by incorporating a slogan for a well-known fast food chain that promotes its $5 sandwiches as a healthy bargain.

The result? The department increased compliance to 75 percent almost immediately and to 100 percent in a few months, Bussiere says.

"We instituted this culture change and we are having fun with it. They not only know the correct cleaning steps and can recite them, they are cleaning the rooms the right way as well," he says.

For more information on the program, ES professionals can log on to