Celebrating Hospital Housekeepers and Environmental Services

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International Housekeepers and Environmental Services Week

International Housekeepers & Environmental Services Week is always celebrated the second week of September. https://www.ieha.org/ihw

This year, Environmental Services Week is celebrated September 11-17, 2022.

This holiday was created to recognize and celebrate our hard-working custodial healthcare workers. Indoor Environmental Healthcare and Hospitality Association (IEHA), a division of the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA), has been the official sponsor since it was founded in 1981. Today, it is celebrated globally in thousands of facilities.

Keep reading as we review the history of Environmental Services (EVS), discuss trends, highlight ways to celebrate National EVS Week, and share some insights on EVS and Infection Prevention collaboration.


History of EVS

Environmental Services (EVS) previously known as housekeeping, is the department in hospitals that ensures cleanliness and disinfection according to regulations for every space of the facility, including: patient care areas, public spaces, and staff work areas.

This department and the frontline workers who perform these important duties have played a key part in protecting our patients and staff during the pandemic and are sometimes called the unsung heroes of healthcare and the pandemic.

In the face of this pandemic, they are among the unsung heroes, the critical first line of defense against infection. Yet their task of hospital cleaning and their stature in the health care hierarchy have long been underappreciated. This is despite extensive evidence that environmental contamination places patients and health care personnel at risk for life-threatening disease.
Source: NCBI

EVS plays a crucial part in a hospitals' infection prevention efforts, and, while not always organizationally structured on the infection prevention team, it is critical to the health and success of a facility that these two departments work cohesively to design and implement strategies and protocols to break the chain of infection.

Without these two teams working together, we are further putting our patients and employees at risk of preventable healthcare-associated infections (HAIs.)


Collaboration Between Infection Prevention and EVS

“EVS and IP leaders having separate or varied lengths of time on the job, experience, and education can be a pitfall. If the two are not aligned in processes and outcomes, it can create different expectations for the scope of work and how those outcomes are measured.”
— Rock Jensen, Administrative Director Support Services, Yuma Regional Medical Center, and AHE At Large Board Member

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes the following core components for successful environmental cleaning and disinfection programs:

  • Integrate environmental services into the hospital's safety culture
  • Educate and train all Healthcare Care Professionals (HCP) responsible for cleaning and disinfecting patient care areas
  • Select appropriate cleaning and disinfection technologies and products
  • Standardize setting-specific cleaning and disinfection protocols
  • Monitor effectiveness and adherence to cleaning and disinfection protocols
  • Provide feedback on success and quality of cleaning and disinfection to staff and stakeholders

Did you notice the first bullet? It's worth repeating. Integrate environmental services into the safety culture.

“This [collaboration] is an essential step in decreasing infections and providing safe patient care. A strong working relationship between the two departments drives down infection rates.”
— Lorene Campbell, RN, BSN, CIC, Infection Preventionist, Kindred Hospitals, Madera, CA.

Our Vice President of Clinical Affairs and Medical Liaison, Caitlin Stowe, MPH, CPH, CIC, CPHQ, VA-BC, shares a few tips on how to do just that.

  • Tip 1: Recognize a Shared Mission – Reduce Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs)
  • Tip 2: Together, Review Missed Education & Other Opportunities
  • Tip 3: Train EVS on Infection Prevention Basics – Free Resources Available Here
  • Tip 4: Highlight Common Goals & Review HAI Data Together Regularly
  • Tip 5: Partner to Evaluate and Approve New Products & Technologies
  • Tip 6: Continued Education – Share Learnings from Conferences and Train Together on New Products or Technologies
  • Tip 7: Ask your Vendors for Education Opportunities – ActivePure Medical partners with EVS and IPs to Create Joint Training
  • Tip 8: Attend Conferences Together like APIC, SHEA, ISSA, or AHE
  • Tip 9: Encourage Certification – AHE Provides Certification in Infection Prevention
  • Tip 10: Celebrate your Success Together

EVS Today

Without EVS workers, patients have a six times greater risk of being infected by the pathogens of the previous patient who occupied their room…. However, the current level of hospital investment and commitment to these workers does not match how crucial their roles are.

Since the mid 1990s, EVS personnel have been reduced by 25%, and more than one third of hospitals have switched to outsourcing to contracted positions.1

Those who are hired by the healthcare system do not always receive the training and recognition their job demands.

Some new hires receive only 3 days of training, forcing 83% of EVS staff to train new recruits on the job.

With the current labor shortage, EVS teams are faced with making a tough decision on what to prioritize. They are being asked to do more with less.

The inevitable result: A study of more than 1000 patient rooms across 23 hospitals revealed that less than 50% of surfaces are properly cleaned.

Hospitals that have partnered with ActivePure Medical have been able to reduce their reliance on labor-intensive UV equipment and instead repurpose their understaffed EVS professionals to focus on the manual cleaning and disinfection that requires a trained expert.

ActivePure and other supplemental solutions like UV robots or hydrogen peroxide misters are not band aids. A strong foundation is required, and this comes from a trained and respected EVS team.

Our team takes pride in working with EVS teams to listen to their concerns and help address problems specific to their facilities. This is an offer we make to everyone who installs ActivePure. We value being a true partner to health systems and bringing continued education to your EVS and infection prevention departments.

The Future of EVS

US healthcare environmental services market is projected to reach USD 8.7 billion by 2026 from USD 6.6 billion in 2021, at a CAGR of 5.8% during the forecast period. The growth of this market is majorly driven by infection control practice standards set by regulatory bodies and US government. Also, with a surge in COVID-19 cases, there is an increasing focus on hygiene & control practices and the rising need to reduce the spread of infection, thus supporting the market growth.

It is not uncommon for hospitals to outsource services, especially nonclinical roles like IT, laundry, cyber security and EVS2.

Experts are now analyzing if hospital outsourcing is prioritizing profits over patients.

Over three quarters of EVS workers live under the poverty line due to their stagnant low wages, while many lack health insurance, sick pay, and other comprehensive health benefits compared to their hospital colleagues.

As noted earlier, more than one third of U.S. hospitals currently outsource EVS. These outsourced companies are gaining a reputation for hurting workers and endangering patients, two key elements that will also impact a healthcare system's ESG efforts around their social efforts3.

In a study of about 300 California hospitals, those that outsourced environmental services reported nearly twice the rate of Clostridioides difficile infections, highly contagious bacterial infections that spread easily in hospitals. Difficult-to-treat staph infections known as MRSA are also more common in hospitals that outsourced their environmental services.

With labor shortages, a rise in labor costs, and an uptick in HAI's, we cannot afford to think short term and prioritize profits over patients. Instead, we are pushing for a future where the EVS team is thought of and treated as part of the infection prevention and control team, and recognized for their efforts in keeping our patients and healthcare workers safe.

“Knocking down germs” requires “lifting-up workers”

Celebrating National EVS Week

Our EVS team members are way overdo for praise and recognition. This is the perfect week to highlight their importance and share your thanks, but it cannot stop there. You must include them as part of your team.

Patient Safety and Quality Healthcare (PSQH) provides the following three tips to empower teamwork:

  1. Know who is responsible
  2. Know the guidelines & practices
  3. Empower healthcare professionals

Here are a few ways you can highlight these heroes:

ActivePure Medical is also gifting one FREE ActivePure Surface and Air Guardian to a deserving EVS worker. Our goal is to help protect these frontline workers. Our plug and play Surface and Air Guardian is proven to inactive 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2 within just one minute. To see test results against other clinically relevant pathogens, visit our Science page.

Enter to win an ActivePure Surface & Air Guardian, highlights of the unit include being compact, plug and play, room coverage up to 1500 square feet, and the ability to reduce SARS-Cov-2 99 percent in under a minute.

To nominate a team member (or yourself – don’t be shy!) email us from your work email telling us why your nominee deserves a little extra recognition this year!

The winner will be notified on or before October 1, 2022.


Resources

Last but certainly not least, we’re here for you! ActivePure Medical is proud to partner with EVS teams to help improve the environment of care. If you want our team to job shadow or review protocols, please contact us to learn more.

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