Anyone who works in a hospital knows how important environmental services (EVS) professionals are to providing a safe, functional, supportive environment for patients and staff. Like many aspects of health care, the importance of these roles became even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, just like other health care professionals, the staff in these roles experienced stress, fear, exhaustion, and burnout.
We spoke with Felicity Adjei, the shift lead for the EVS department at Franciscan Health Lafayette East in Lafayette, Ind., to learn more about her role and the effect the pandemic had on her job. She’s worked at Franciscan Health for 12 years. Ms. Adjei spent her first month on the job training with a fellow employee to ensure she knew what to clean, how to clean, and how to keep herself and patients safe from the chemicals used. She also had to complete extensive Occupational Safety and Health Administration training, which has to be renewed regularly.
Ms. Adjei’s main duties include working to keep patient rooms and various areas of the hospital clean and sanitized. In addition to these duties, she’s also the lead associate in her supervisor’s absence, which involves delegating team members to different areas and working to make sure the team is running smoothly.
A typical day is anything but typical for Ms. Adjei. “A typical day for me is usually very busy,” she said. “I work to clean and sanitize patient rooms to help turn over rooms when discharges need to be completed. Due to the large volume of rooms within the hospital, my team members and I need to ensure we are doing a complete and thorough job, as quickly as we can.”
We’ve written numerous articles about staffing shortages and how they affect hospitalists, patient care, and hospitals—and those staffing issues affect EVS team members as well.
“The biggest challenge of my job is definitely the sheer amount of work that needs to be completed,” Ms. Adjei said. “My team and I work as hard as we can, but sometimes it is just not possible to complete our daily tasks with the amount of staff that we have.”
As you’d expect, the pandemic created a lot more work for Ms. Adjei and her team members. The increased number of hospitalizations meant more work and a heightened demand to turn rooms over quicker—despite the fact that extra precautions and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) were needed when cleaning COVID-19-designated rooms.
“Before the pandemic, shifts were already busy and required a lot of time and energy,” she said. “At the height of the pandemic, the workload increased even though the number of staff did not.”
Ms. Adjei’s concerns and fears mirrored those shared by hospitalists during the pandemic—knowingly putting yourself in harm’s way by working in that environment.
“Though I had my PPE, it was tough entering room after room that housed a patient who was suffering from a very contagious disease,” she said. “However, I knew each patient deserved a clean environment to help them heal. I relied on my PPE and faith in God to protect me each day.”
Despite the challenges and stress of working through the pandemic, the lingering staff shortages, and the exhaustion she feels at the end of each shift, Ms. Adjei says the most enjoyable part of her job is being able to connect with patients through faith.
“I love being able to pray with patients and remind them that they are not alone,” she said.