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Environmental Services (EVS) Steps Up for COVID-19 Pandemic

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Environmental Services (EVS) has always been an integral part of Sheridan Memorial Hospital (SMH). With the rise of COVID-19 cases, their hours of dedicated service towards keeping everyone at our hospital safe has been all the more necessary. So in honor of EVS Week, we want to shed some light on everything the members of our housekeeping and laundry staff have done and currently doing to ensure SMH can keep providing excellent patient-centered care to our wonderful community.

March began as just another routine month for the EVS staff. Their days consisted of the usual standard daily work, and they followed the same processes and procedures. But when COVID-19 began rapidly spreading throughout the country in mid-march, EVS had to break from routine and start adopting new ways to keep the hospital as safe as possible. One of the most difficult initial problems that EVS had to work around was the lack of information on how to protect against COVID-19. Heather Yost, an environmental services aide, explained, “Since COVID-19 was such a new disease, a lot of the health organizations, like the CDC, were still trying to decipher exactly what did and didn’t work when trying to stop its spread. So a good number of the processes that we would adopt ended up being changed pretty rapidly because of new discoveries. It also didn’t help that with every new process, we had to get additional education for that process, which took even more time out of our already cramped schedules.”

But now that time has passed, and much more research has been done, the entire EVS team has finally been able to find a consistent process they use to keep us safe. However, just because they’re done doing all the guesswork, it doesn’t mean they’re done doing all the hard work.

Whenever EVS cleans an isolation room after the patient has been discharged, they must first wait outside until any air in the room which could’ve been contaminated by the patient has been filtered out. While waiting, EVS dons personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, gowns, and facial coverings such as MAXAIR CAPRs to protect them from any traces of disease. When the contaminated air has been filtered out, they can enter the isolation room and begin disinfecting. Once they’ve entered the isolation room, procedure dictates that they are to remain inside until all cleaning processes have been followed, and the room has been completely sterilized. So EVS goes about the room, disinfecting the entire space, including the floors, furniture, bathroom, and even the walls. Then, once the room is thoroughly cleaned, they must remain inside it to doff all of their PPE and dispose of any materials that may have been contaminated in the process of cleaning. It is only then that they are finally allowed to exit the room. The process of cleaning just one of these isolation rooms can take up to 2 hours, about twice as long as it normally takes to clean a typical MedSurg room, and that isn’t including the time it takes to don and doff any necessary PPE. With this additional time devoted to cleaning the isolation rooms and other areas vulnerable to COVID, EVS has never been busier. But they’ve kept their chin up and continue to push through these congested times, even when that has meant working overtime or helping to share someone else’s load during a hard shift

You might wonder what keeps them going, how they are able to take on such busy days, and how they are able to keep cool under this kind of pressure. Emily Cummings shared, “My family is what drives me forward.  I’ve had loved ones who once stayed in these same rooms that I cleaned today.  EVS was there to keep things clean and safe for the people I loved. If my Dad were sick in the hospital, I’d want to know that everyone there was doing everything they could to keep him safe, so that’s why I need to do everything I can to keep these patients safe.” “I’ve been afraid to get COVID, I know how serious this disease can be, but I want to contribute in any way I can to stopping it from getting to somebody else,” Heather Yost explained. “I keep going because of everyone on the EVS team.  I see how hard they work every day, and I’m so proud of all the hard work that they do. They inspire me every day to work harder than I ever thought I could,” Karen Wemple concluded.

We at Sheridan Memorial Hospital are so very grateful for our outstanding Environmental Services team. We can’t thank them enough for their perseverance throughout these difficult times and for the amazing work they do every day to ensure that our community has a clean, safe place to receive excellent patient-centered care.