FROM LEFT: EVS leaders Keith Schwartz, CHEST, supervisor; Ian Walsh, CHEST, supervisor; Brian Wieners, the new EVS director; Edwin Ortiz, operations manager; David Leo, CHESP, EVS director during the award period; Leonard Karrott, CHEST, supervisor; and Amanda Sweet, CHEST, supervisor. Not photographed is Joan Barnett, CHEST, supervisor.

Image courtesy of Geisinger Community Medical Center

If a hospital wants to shine, it must put extra elbow grease into its cleaning activities, make employees feel valued and emphasize improved productivity. Geisinger Community Medical Center’s 62-member environmental services (EVS) staff surpassed all those goals and more last year to help the organization clean up in the 250-499 bed category and bring home an Association for the Health Care Environment (AHE) Environmental Services Department of the Year Award.

One big reason behind the win was higher HCAHPS scores, driven in part by surveys the hospital conducted to gauge patient perceptions of cleanliness and scripting validations.

500-plus-bed category winner

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Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital/Cottage Health

“Our scripting validations, performed by department supervisors, help ensure that our EVS technicians are providing services according to established industry and in-house standards, engaging with patients, using the correct verbiage to meet cleanliness needs and dialoguing with patients after each room is cleaned,” says David C. Leo, CHESP, Geisinger’s EVS department director. “By increasing scripting validations to an average of 36 completed per month and conducting 121 patient experience surveys monthly, we were able to drive HCAHPS scores up 18 percentile points in cleanliness and 27 percentile points in courtesy.”

Leo’s team also utilized invisible marking pen inspections to make certain that high touch points were properly cleaned, resulting in a bundle compliance rate between 98.9% and 99.9%.

Moreover, the 290-bed hospital — housing more than 510,000 square feet of cleanable surfaces —reduced patient turnaround times by 14 minutes, to 51 minutes. This was accomplished by utilizing electronic bed management software to track and log turnaround times and alert EVS technicians to isolation protocols, scheduling an appropriate number of workers on shift at high peak discharge times, and working carefully with nursing to understand their discharge processes and isolation protocols.

A year for betterment

And the successes just kept on coming last year. Geisinger achieved an employee engagement survey score ranking in the 74th percentile, up from 51% in its previous survey. The EVS squad even graded up to 20 points higher in engagement scores than the national health care average in the areas of supervisors, senior leadership, enabling infrastructure, career development, customer focus, engagement, performance management, employer brand and decision-making.

Theresa Jones, EVS technician, replaces linens on a patient bed.

Image courtesy of Geisinger Community Medical Center

“This was accomplished by conducting daily huddles, asking for staff input, running communication boards, providing education and having leaders working alongside the front-line team as active supervisors,” Leo says. “We really are a family at Geisinger, and our department does everything possible to ensure each other’s success.”

Productivity improvements were plentiful, too. Case in point: Designated EVS technicians were required to transport red bag waste from their assigned areas twice daily at their break times to decrease trips for other technicians assigned to waste pickup throughout the facility.

“Some of our EVS technicians use their walk to and from the cafeteria as an opportunity to reduce the tasks of colleagues, allowing waste pickup staff to perform a higher volume of floor care maintenance and projects, and resulting in a reallocation of 0.75 full-time equivalents for other EVS departmental needs,” Leo says.

Bob Waznak, EVS leader, cleans the floor of the front entrance.

Image courtesy of Geisinger Community Medical Center

In addition, the team collaborated closely with the emergency department (ED), infection control department and patient placement staff to implement, based on Association of Healthcare Research and Quality data, a program to reduce errors in the use of technology for notification of bed cleans in the ED. Consequently, EVS received proper isolation notifications and could better account for specific bed cleans.

Among the technology employed by the facility to enhance efficiency were mobile phones for secured texting and bed management; leadership rounding tools to ensure survey readiness; electronic EVS inspection surveys; electronic pharmacy clean room documentation; a policy manager electronic database for policies, procedures and guidelines; an intranet platform that enables staff to efficiently access services, departments, newsfeeds and educational resources; a cloud-based solution for human resources and payroll processes; an electronic tool used to perform inspections and task completions; and a Geisinger online academic learning repository for online classes based on job profiles.

Rewarding and protecting

The department also made strides in boosting employee retention; last year’s turnover rate decreased to 29.82% from the 42.86% tallied in 2019. The hospital implemented sign-on bonuses and referral bonuses and increased starting wages for EVS personnel. More team members took advantage of Geisinger’s MyHealth Rewards wellness program designed to save employees money on coverage plans while also improving their health. The facility expanded its educational program offerings as well, and hosted a week-long celebration during which EVS workers were treated to meals, letters of appreciation and gifts.

Escolastica Fernandez, EVS technician, cleans equipment in the trauma room.

Image courtesy of Geisinger Community Medical Center

“After COVID-19 hit, we spent a lot of time reeducating and training our folks on personal protective equipment and disinfection so they would feel safe dealing with such an unknown early on,” says Leo, who notes that 100% of EVS staffers are fully vaccinated. “We developed fact sheets and established industrial safety and hygiene practices. We also have over half of our staff now Certified Health Care Environmental Services Technicians (CHESTs) through AHE, which enhances their ability to understand cleaning and disinfecting. In fact, Geisinger boasted having the most CHEST technicians in the country in 2019.”

Waste reduction and recycling initiatives were also given priority last year. All Geisinger staff were reeducated on the proper use of recycling containers, and new logos were created to better identify the waste stream placed into these containers. Plus, the facility conducted semiannual audits of medications containers to identify potential incorrect use and prevent improper waste streams from going into these containers.

Being named an Environmental Services Department of the Year Award winner means a lot to Leo and his dedicated crew.

“It shows that hard work pays off. It proves to the entire team that everything we do is being recognized and that we have become a prestigious EVS department by winning this award two out of the last three years,” he says. “It’s always gratifying to be recognized by your peers. I have an overwhelming feeling of pride for my team and the organization knowing that our patients can benefit from nationally recognized, quality health care available right here in their backyard.”

Eric M. Nowak, MBA, T-CHEST, T-CSCT, associate vice president of EVS at the hospital, is also thrilled by the accolade. “The team has worked tirelessly on enhancing the health care environment through collaboration with hospital and clinical administration as well as our system EVS administration team,” he says. “Together we have shown that it takes a village to succeed.”