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Everything you ever wanted to know about hospital housekeeping

May 1st, 2007

by Nick Jacobs

As a first time hospital president, it was clear to me that I could not tolerate a business as usual environment. My background had included visits to plenty of hospitals that allowed me to see blood on the walls in the patient’s rooms, filthy corners, stairwells, and waiting areas with waste baskets running over, cigarette butts at the entrance ways and infection rates raging at around 10% or above. For the most part, it was not because of a lack of pride. It was because of accepted standards, history, and tradition. It was about mediocrity. It was about doing it the way it had always been done.

When you enter many hospitals, you feel fortunate if you are overwhelmed by the smells of disinfectants. At least it smells as if someone is trying to clean the place. You feel lucky if you don’t see fluids on the curtains or walls, and, if you don’t get an infection.

What do you look for in clean hospital? What questions can you ask? Well, here’s the drill. There are several very important extra steps that can take place. The first thing in the morning, the public bathrooms are thoroughly cleaned. This gives the patients time to eat breakfast before the housekeeping staff begins to clean their rooms. Having said this, however, since they are the focus of the entire hospital, the patient rooms and operating rooms are the priority for the staff.

The patient rooms are done every single day; the window, windowsills, floors, tables, telephones, telephone cords, restrooms, end tables and bed trays are sanitized. The staff uses disposable wipes for each room so that the tools used to wipe up and clean up one patient room are used only once. This ensures that each room is getting it’s own cleaning equipment. It’s more expensive, but much safer for the patients this way.

The water in the staff’s cleaning bucket is changed for every room. To ensure cleanliness and to protect from infection, any blood or bathroom accidents are handled as soon as the staff is made aware of it. If any rooms need any type of maintenance or work performed, the housekeeping staff will contact the maintenance department immediately to get the problem fixed.

Staff is always on the lookout for exposed needles in patient areas to ensure everyone’s safety. They also check out the floors for paperclips because these little organizational tools can cause slips and falls on the floor. Further, they are very careful that any hazardous waste material is disposed of properly every time to ensure safety from infection.

Most importantly, when possible, they also have an important roll in taking care of the patients themselves. If they are doing their cleaning, and the patient needs a pillow, wants propped up in bed, needs a drink, or whatever non-medical request they might have, the housekeeping staff will do all that they can to help.

If it’s a medical task; they will find the person who can help the patient. Some of these requests may seem beyond the realm of a typical job duty, but if the request is valid, they will go far beyond the norm. For example, if the patient has spilled some food or drink on their personal items, the housekeepers will even wash those items for the patient. Further, they will then return it to them pressed and cleaned. (Obviously, to avoid spread of infection, any blood borne pathogens are not included in this extra service.)

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