We know that a large majority of health care organizations have moved from referring to “housekeeping” staff to environmental services. Then there are others who have pushed back, saying that the length of stay is so short that re-educating patients and staff doesn’t make sense. We respectfully disagree. As awful as it may sound, just by virtue of perception, the words housekeeper, janitor and custodian are not job descriptors widely associated with needing a wide body of knowledge, technical skills or core competencies.

I ask that you humor me for just a moment. As a young person thinking about his or her future and investigating a preferred profession, did you say to yourself, “Gee, I want to go to college to be a housekeeping manager in a hospital or resident care facility?” I don’t think so. Most of you backed into the job through internships, summer jobs or transfers from other departments. Others made the transition from hotel management and soon found themselves on the internet looking for help because the roles are vastly different. We know it’s true, because those new to health care call AHE all the time asking for help, and we are most happy to oblige.

The health care environmental services profession will be recognized as a true profession — not just a calling to serve or because you love working with people. College courses and degreed coursework will be available to students looking for a choice between hospitality and health care. So, yes, AHE is building the future of the profession. But we are talking about the present. We are talking about changing perceptions of internal and external customers. We are talking about changing the way even the patients view our work. Yes, change is hard and requires re-education. But the game-changer in communication is explaining why you are making the change.

Why? Because the environment in which the patient care is being provided is so vital to patient well-being that it’s important enough for us to view it as more than housekeeping. We care about what others think we are doing versus what we are actuallydoing. The work we do saves lives. The work we do has impact.

We’d like to ask you to help AHE keep moving forward in shaping this professional practice. We ask you to help AHE transform how health care environmental services is viewed by others on the care team and, more importantly, how environmental services personnel view themselves.

Join AHE in an ongoing effort to encourage health care environmental services professionals to “take the pledge” to redefine the role of the profession.

Take action today!

  • Define the contribution of environmental services teams to the overall quality of care and outcomes.
  • Eliminate the use of such titles as housekeeper, janitor and custodian.
  • Become the best advocate for the profession when seated at the table to talk about organizational policy changes or other critical discussions about patient satisfaction, infection prevention and positive outcomes.
  • Advocate for continued education and professional development support. You can arm yourself by visiting http://www.ahe.org.

If being a key member of the care team is important to you, and it should be, we encourage you to take the pledge today!

Patti Costello is executive director of the Association for the Healthcare Environment.



Practice guidance available

Practice Guidance for Healthcare Environmental Cleaning, second edition, helps to define and advance the professionals responsible for care of the health care environment to ensure high-quality outcomes and healthy communities.

This manual provides evidence-based research, guidance and recommended practices that should be considered for inclusion in health care environmental services departments. Because each facility has its own needs, this resource has been designed to enhance an existing program.

Click here for more information.

Certified Healthcare Environmental Services Technician Certificate

This certification focuses on critical areas of competency for front-line technicians, including infection prevention, quality of care, patient outcomes and experience.

Click here for more information.

Environmental Sustainability Certificate Program

AHE has launched a certification to acknowledge the environmental and ecological sustainability efforts of environmental services departments.

Click here for more information.