Have you ever inspected your facility's furnishings, flooring and walls and wondered how best to clean and maintain them? Or, have you wondered why you were not involved in the purchase or selection of new furnishings?

The environmental services (ES) department often is responsible for maintaining surfaces inside health care facilities. Within its purview, ES also is responsible for keeping furnishings looking like new. However, surfaces and furnishings can be damaged easily or destroyed because ES professionals often are not given care instructions.

ES leaders need to get involved in the selection of these surfaces and furnishings from the beginning. But before they look to become more actively involved in this area, they need to be aware of the various types of surfaces and furnishings available today and what they should advocate for.

There are a multitude of floor surfaces available for installation at healthcare institutions. Carpeting is being replaced with other types of flooring. Yet there are still some areas that are carpeted. What's new and exciting in carpeting is the use of carpet squares. These squares can be removed if they become stained beyond cleaning or destroyed by other means.

Hard-surface floors have seen major changes along the way as well. Vinyl composite tile is still around but there are many other types of flooring, such as sheet vinyl, wood-grain sheet vinyl and rubber flooring, to name a few.

Furniture is an item that often is overlooked when interiors are designed without involving ES leaders. Experience tells us that cloth furniture does not last and is difficult to keep clean. There are a number of health care plastics and Crypton fabrics that are available for health care facilities.

Another aspect of furniture to consider is how it is designed to protect the floor. For example, does the furniture have wheels or metal feet that can destroy surfaces? In my years as an ES leader, I have seen how office chair wheels can damage hard-surface floors and destroy finishes.

Other surfaces that tend to be overlooked are walls and items affixed to them such as handrails or pictures. Wallpaper, once a staple in health care, is beginning to disappear because it is often difficult to clean; and if scrubbed, it can be destroyed. When it gets ripped, it makes the facility look shabby. There are many products that can be installed now on walls for protection and ease of cleaning.

ES managers should become experts in a variety of areas, including facility interiors, and get involved in the decision-making process.

This month's column was written by Kent L. Miller, MHL, CHESP, president of AHE's board of directors.


Valuable resources

AHE has a comprehensive educational and professional development program that engages all levels of experience.

  • Webinar — Clean and Quiet: Realistically Influencing HCAHPS Scores and Outcomes. This program will review strategies for improving the patient experience and increasing performance on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) Clean and Quiet metric. The event, which is free for AHE members and $139 for nonmembers, will be on July 12 at 11 a.m. CST.
  • Online educational course — Foundations for Success in Environmental Services Management. This course lasts 10 weeks, from July 9 to Sept. 21. The member price is $189 and the nonmember price is $239.
  • Online educational course — Online CHESP Study Group. This Certified Healthcare Environmental Services Professional (CHESP) course lasts six weeks, from July 30 through Sept. 7. The member price is $109 and the nonmember price is $149.
  • Conference — EXCHANGE 2012 (formerly known as the AHE Annual Conference & Healthcare Marketplace). This will be Sept. 16–19 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel and Phoenix Convention Center.

For more information, please visit AHE's website at www.AHE.org.