In an organization the size of Parkview Health — a 941-bed system based in Fort Wayne, Ind., with more than 2.5 million square feet of cleanable space — consistency among buildings, staff and processes is critical.

So, when Parkview’s environmental services department decided to restructure its new hire training program in 2017, establishing consistency was central to the team’s strategy, says Daniel J. Malloy, CHESP, director of corporate environmental services at Parkview Health. And that rule applied to environmental services leaders as well as technicians. 

“When we established our [Environmental Services] New Hire Training Program, we implemented consistent training throughout, regardless of the role of the co-worker,” Malloy says. “All co-workers receive the same message, the same hands-on experience, and are held accountable for the same service excellence.”

Created and monitored by Certified Health Care Environmental Services Technician Training (T-CHEST)-certified trainers, the four-day, hands-on, classroom- and computer-based training program is one step on the employee career ladder that combines education through certified programs, increased pay for achieving certifications, and promotion opportunities. 

In just two years, the new hire training program has been highly successful, according to Malloy, who conceptualized the program. “We have now had 44 graduating classes since 2017,” Malloy says.

In 2018 alone, 188 new hires completed the training program, three environmental services directors and one operations manager obtained Certified Health Care Environmental Services Professional (CHESP) certification, and 13 environmental services supervisors obtained CHEST certification.

Among other benefits, such programs translate into improved patient satisfaction, which is reflected in the department’s metrics. 

In 2018, Parkview maintained its HCAHPS score from the previous year: 84% for cleanliness, above the state and national averages. These top-level scores were maintained despite the challenge associated with opening two new facilities, the Parkview Cancer Institute and Parkview Wabash Hospital, in the same year.

For this achievement and many others, Parkview has been named the winner of the Association for the Health Care Environment’s (AHE’s) 2019 Environmental Services Department of the Year award in the 501-plus beds category.

Teamwork yields results

Along with praising Parkview’s push toward learning and growth, one of the judges in the AHE competition, Marci Butts, CHESP, director of environmental services at UC Health West Chester, Cincinnati, cited the department’s collaboration with other departments as a considerable asset to the hospital system as a whole.

“The [environmental services] team and their leaders are highly involved in collaborating with other departments to make these facilities a great place to practice medicine, take care of patients or receive care,” Butts says.

In 2018, for example, the team wanted to transition away from an outdated pager system to a more efficient, high-tech staff communication system. 

During brainstorming sessions with the information systems (IS), maintenance, infection prevention (IP) and biomedical departments, several leaders suggested adopting a bed management system from Epic, Verona, Wis., to optimize patient flow and improve turnover times, Malloy says.

After adopting the system, the IS department developed a protocol that replaced pagers with 175 iPads and 87 iPods. The team rolled out the program in less than six months and continues to track metrics through electronic monitoring and charting.

“It’s working great,” Malloy says. “All our hospitals have improved bed turnaround times. And, as with any other change, there was a little resistance at first, but now I don’t think we could take these devices away from our co-workers.”

The new program is projected to bring annual savings of over $200,000, Malloy adds.

Other environmental services collaborations include partnering with the hospital linen service and the nursing department to reduce linen utilization for a savings of $195,670. The process is under review at Parkview’s community hospitals as well.

Environmental services also works closely with IP to integrate environmental services technicians into the facility’s overall infection prevention and control plan. In 2018, environmental services worked with IP to reduce pest control costs. By revising policies, creating pest control posters and instituting pest control training, hospital costs have dropped $60,000 annually.

Malloy says environmental services leaders are continually striving to make improvements in every area. This often means trying out new programs and gauging progress, which is measured in a variety of ways.

Butts cited several noteworthy environmental services programs, including the decentralized equipment program, which ensures proper disinfection of various patient rooms and equipment; and the waste management recycling program, which has made great gains in the past year. 

Recycling of corrugated cardboard alone increased by 31%, while recycling efforts of protected health information increased by 158%. And using Pittsburgh-based Aethon Inc.’s TUG mobile robots has proven to be a safe, efficient and reliable method for managing waste. In 2018, the robots completed over 35,000 deliveries, more than twice the number of deliveries since they were introduced in 2012.

Investing in employees

Well into 2019, Malloy continues to search for new ways to improve patient service and employee performance, and reduce costs, which is central to the department’s core philosophy.

“One of the keys to success is being a visionary navigator,” Malloy says. “You have to have a vision, but you also have to know how to navigate that vision. This is what we call creating our future.”

The core of that philosophy involves investing in and recognizing the co-workers who create the hospital’s future. Created in collaboration with human resources, the career ladder advancement program encourages retention of co-workers within the department. 

The retention rates for full-time co-workers in 2017 and 2018 were nearly 80% and 70%, respectively, and those who did leave the environmental services department were primarily pursuing educational opportunities or pursuing advanced positions outside of Parkview. 

Environmental services staff are recognized in a variety of ways, including the Over 80 Percent Club, for those achieving above the 80th percentile for cleanliness; and the Under 60 Minutes Club, recognizing co-workers monthly for achieving under 60-minute average turnaround time.

Environmental services leaders also write thank-you notes and award recognition of excellence certificates to co-workers who perform above the day-to-day expectations, among other initiatives.

Such a strategy ultimately leads to improved service, patient satisfaction and co-worker longevity, Malloy says. 

“The vision of investing in co-workers pays multiple dividends: to provide a personal and professional career path, expand [environmental services] skill sets, reduce equipment repairs, and increase co-worker pride, confidence and respect,” Malloy says.