The environmental services department has emerged as a key player in maintaining a safe and patient-friendly hospital environment of care.

In an upcoming Health Facilities Management (HFM) magazine feature, Jack Gosselin, FASHE, CHFM, a former hospital facilities manager who runs a Mystic, Conn.-based recruiting firm says, "Environmental services is playing a much bigger role with the patient experience, infection control and facility image.”

Infection control is one topic that has gone from an internal concern, to a national discussion. Although the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria puts everyone at risk, there are some who are more vulnerable than others, as the environmental services teams at both the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, N.H., know all too well.

Each organization was named a 2014 Environmental Services Department of the Year by the Association for the Healthcare Environment and HFM.

As Alonzo Gonzalez, CHFM, CHESP, director of patient care properties at MD Anderson, told HFM in last year’s Environmental Services Department of the Year awards article, "In any other environmental services department, the focus would be on infection, but because we are a cancer center, we take the duty that much more seriously."

Both hospitals detailed the level of care and scrutiny that goes into maintaining a safe environment, including adopting a preventionist's mindset, working as a team, communicating clearly and measuring results.

Every year, HFM hears from Environmental Services Department of the Year applicants that go above and beyond to keep patients healthy and safe, and they have the HCAHPS scores to prove it.

Not only that, many ES departments report major successful cost-saving initiatives while maintaining or even surpassing their hospital's standards.

The deadline for this year's competition is July 10 — just weeks away. So, submit your applications soon. Winners will be announced at the Exchange 2015 conference in September in Grapevine, Texas.

HFM is eager to hear and report on how this year's leaders are leading the way in patient safety.