In the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19, we’ve heard countless stories about the brave medical professionals who are working on the frontlines of this crisis.
Of course, it takes many individuals working in close concert with one another to make a hospital run, and it’s impossible to do any type of medical work that’s safe in an environment that isn’t sterile. In a time where handwashing and keeping things clean is very much top of mind, we thought it’d be good to consult the experts in such matters: the individuals who are keeping Gillette’s patients, families and staff members safe by keeping things clean.
“At Gillette, our main goal is that every single person who sets foot in one of our facilities has a safe and positive experience. Now more than ever, keeping our clinical spaces clean and sanitized is an essential part of that,” says Brian Smidt, manager of Environment of Care at Gillette. “We take this task personally all the time, but especially right now, we want Gillette to be a safe haven.”
Below is a conversation with Brian Smidt and Paul Yee, supervisor of Environmental Services (EVS) at Gillette. EVS is the department responsible for keeping all of Gillette’s clinical spaces, patient rooms, operating rooms and public spaces clean.
How is cleaning done at Gillette and what sets us apart from many other medical facilities?
Paul: At Gillette, we treat each of the kids in our care as if they were our own. That’s how we treat our clinical spaces and that’s how and why we clean.
We’ve developed and maintained a highly meticulous, systematic method of keeping our clinical spaces sterile. What you worry about in a clinical setting are the high-touch areas a lot of different people are interacting with where pathogens could spread to others. Think, light switches, door handles, bed rails, tray tables, etc.
Our team focuses on these surfaces and cleans patient rooms in a high to low, circular fashion. We routinely audit our performance and our rates of consistent cleaning and decontamination hospital-wide, are far above the national average of other health care facilities.
How do you conduct audits of your performance?
Brian: There is a member of our staff who as part of their additional responsibilities, is tasked with entering clinical spaces prior to them being cleaned. This individual uses a bioluminescent marker (it’s like invisible ink that can be seen using ultraviolet light) to mark certain high-touch objects and surfaces throughout the room. If the room has been cleaned properly, all of the marked spots should be gone. After the cleaning has been performed, we all can go in to see if any spots have been missed.
Paul: To be clear, this is not done in a disciplinary way. It’s done randomly and periodically and not just in patient or operating rooms, but in our public spaces and waiting rooms as well. If anything, we treat it as a learning tool that reinforces the importance of the work that we’re doing. It’s also an opportunity to be competitive with one another.
Brian: Right now, we also have a competition about who can do the most pushups during these COVID times. So, yes, our team is competitive.
During COVID, are there things your team is doing differently?
Brian: We are cleaning public spaces and waiting areas for patients and families more frequently and periodically throughout the day. There are also areas where our staff members interact and work that we’re cleaning more often.
Paul: With the cleaning of our patient and operating rooms, it’s the same as we’ve always done. There’s certainly a heightened focus on the work that we do right now, but we take our work very seriously each day, pandemic or not, and are proud of the high standard we’ve set.
Are there concerns from staff about coming into the hospital to work right now?
Brian: Obviously, there are concerns, but I’m really proud of how our whole team has stepped up during this time. We’ve been hearing about some medical facilities having issues with absenteeism from front-line staff, and that’s not something we’ve experienced. I had a member of our staff tell me the other day, “I’m not worried if it’s safe because we’re making it safe.” I thought that was an excellent encapsulation of the commitment of our team.
Do you feel that individuals who work in essential, but non-clinical roles in health care get the credit that they deserve?
Paul: I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve worked in other health care systems where my individual contribution felt undervalued.
At Gillette, we’ve had a great deal of support from our medical staff and infection protection specialists, who are the individuals who make our work possible. People who are making an effort usually recognize mutual effort in others. I think our medical staff sees the time and care that we put into our work and are glad that we’re around. The little things matter and it’s refreshing how much people go out of their way to thank one another here.
Brian: If there’s anything that COVID has taught us, it’s just how important every single person around us truly is. Every member of our staff at the hospital has their role and we’re all just trying to do the best job possible to serve our patients and their families. We’ll get through this, but it will take all of us doing our part.