Health care delivery has made great strides with technology and improved decision-making tools at all levels.

Upper management employs the use of metrics, dashboards and evidence-based information to facilitate decisions. These tools are paramount to every department in the organization, including environmental services (ES).

When I became an ES manager in 1992, there were no dashboards, performance measures or metrics that highlighted the department's role in positive patient outcomes. It was more about aesthetics, like shiny floors.

Today, there's more to ES than keeping the environment safe and clean. ES plays a major role in customer satisfaction, throughput, infection prevention and access. Effective health care managers operate seamlessly and present themselves professionally in word and appearance. Success is achieved through a strong commitment to professional development and willingness to change.

Improving quality of services is vital to enhancing health system performance. Every ES manager can achieve higher standards by being committed to health care management.

I recommend ES managers be entrenched in their organizations by serving on resource committees and strategic planning committees that influence personnel and financial decisions. ES managers should participate in process-improvement activities to improve quality and efficiency. Process improvement is an organizational journey that requires all departments. On the ES side, developing the business and the performance metrics are commitments to the long-term success of the department.

As an ES manager I didn't stand behind the scenes. I learned to communicate and demonstrate how ES supported and contributed to my health care system's strategy. I made a firm commitment to learn the organization's business beyond the ES department. I served on hospitalwide committees and led or participated in improvement activities locally and nationally. It is important for ES staff to understand how ES supports the organization. As a leader and an advocate for ES, I took responsibility for providing guidance, resources and knowledge.

I challenge ES managers to elevate from basements to boardrooms in their business approach and be partners in health care delivery.

To help them achieve this goal, AHE is a pillar for members — ready, willing and able to help ES managers tackle any problem. AHE has tools and resources to help with dashboards, staffing model development, department analytics, networking, evidence-based policy and procedural guidance. AHE provides multiple avenues to enhance knowledge, including excellent webinars, online education for staff, and outstanding publications. AHE's bulletin board and Listserv should be utilized to share information and compare metrics.

I strongly encourage ES managers to take advantage of these resources. Have concerns or challenges? Contact AHE at AHE staff are responsive and will be glad to help.

This month's column was written by Thomas J. Fitzgerald III, CHESP, assistant health care system director, VA Palo Alto.

AHE insight

Valuable resources

AHE offers a variety of educational materials. They include the following:

  • Practice Guidance for Healthcare Environmental Cleaning. This publication, prepared by AHE and edited by infection control professionals, contains requirements for environmental cleaning in health care facilities. Targeted for environmental services directors and managers, this book can be used as a resource for implementing proper cleaning techniques and procedures.
  • Contracting: Myths & Realities. This publication covers everything from outsourcing to management pitfalls. It includes sample surveys, budgets and task lists that will assist in making the best contracting decisions for a health care facility's environmental services department. AHE re-released this manual to keep environmental services professionals at the top of their game.
  • Glossary of Healthcare Terms for Environmental Services. This convenient reference tool features hundreds of terms and definitions organized alphabetically, both general and specific to environmental services, housekeeping and textile care.

For information on purchasing these and other valuable industry references, select "AHA Store," then "Environmental Services" after clicking here.