Strategies to improve a patient’s experience are always at the top of the to-do list in a successful health care facility. An important part of this experience is the sense that all professionals involved in the healing process are conscientious with regard to cleanliness.

From an infection control standpoint, the environmental services staff are vital in controlling and eliminating pathogens that would harm a patient’s recovery. As medical facilities strive to maintain a sustainable competitive edge, awareness and support of the environmental services staff yield not only benefits, but also higher HCAHPS scores.

Some patients and health care workers may view environmental services’ role in the healing process in a less than positive or unimportant way. Yet, they are expected to anticipate needs, complete their daily routines and react promptly to emergency circumstances. Such a disconnect between how they may be viewed and their job responsibilities can lead to a decrease in satisfaction at work and lower productivity.

In a survey-based study of 87 cleaning professionals and 126 other employees, a research team from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., measured differences in feelings, emotional well-being and tendencies toward particular work behaviors between the two groups. The team found that to maintain a sense of dignity, the cleaning professionals reported feeling numb and apathetic toward their job and work duties. Some emotionally detached from their work so they could manage the discomfort of feeling less valuable. This is, obviously, not ideal given that employees in this role serve as the front line in infection prevention among the sickest members of our communities.

This reaction can affect work performance and the employees’ emotional investment in the job. The study suggests that cleaning professionals may engage in various passive behaviors to cope — laziness on the job, avoiding certain tasks, procrastination, and withdrawing from their team and co-workers, perhaps taking little pride in their tasks. Not only is this depressing on a human level, but it is bad for business, given that customer satisfaction in health care organizations relies, in large part, on perceptions of cleanliness.

Given the results of the study, several recommendations will go a long way toward combating the stigma of cleaning professionals and help to improve morale and productivity. These will be addressed in more detail in Part 2 of this column next month.

John Gnecco is the lead author of this column. His coauthors are Danielle Jackson; Thomas W. Cline, Ph.D.Michael J. Urick, Ph.D.; and Elizabeth Coleman Gnecco. They all work at the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics and Government, Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa.



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.