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Cleaning for Healing

Environmental services employee

As COVID-19 made its way into our lives, most of us received a crash course in cleaning and disinfecting our homes, offices, electronics, toys, shopping carts and deliveries. We became keenly aware of how long germs and bacteria can survive on certain surfaces.

While we turned into "clean freaks" overnight, it was nothing new for our Environmental Services (EVS) team at the medical center. At Cook Children's, cleanliness has always been a priority because it's a vital part of ensuring our patients' safety.

Healing is the goal of every hospital, which means we must provide an infection-free environment. When your child is at the hospital, either overnight or just for an appointment, you already have a lot on your mind. You shouldn't have to worry about the setting being clean and safe. That's the job of Cook Children's EVS, and the team takes it very seriously because it impacts every patient family's experience while in our care.

In addition to cleaning floors, restrooms, patient rooms and staff areas, our EVS staff members are on the front line of infection prevention at the medical center. They work collaboratively with clinical staff to ensure pathogens are not a threat to patients, especially those who are immunocompromised. With the spread of COVID-19, their jobs are more important than ever.

Cook Children's Environmental Services Director Brian Bergeron is proud of his department's agile, efficient response to the virus.

"Communication has been critical to our EVS workers and management, reassuring employees' safety as adjustments in cleaning requirements are considered in the prevention of infection transmission," said Brian. "We are grateful for the care that our nurses and physicians have provided for our patients during this time, and we have recognized that everyone on the front line, including EVS staff, is considered a caregiver."

Our EVS staff members work consistent schedules and are assigned to the same areas, as often as possible. This allows our housekeepers to build relationships with the patients whom they consistently serve and keep safe. Families can count on our EVS staff for more than just empty wastebaskets and sanitized surfaces. They also may offer listening ears or words of encouragement to the patient families they have come to know.

For example, Environmental Services aide Rebecca Bocardo has served for more than five years in the renogastric and gastroenterology unit. This area cares for chronically ill patients who stay for weeks or even month, and are often admitted repeatedly. The unit was designated for potential COVID-19 patients who are in isolation and awaiting test results. These families are facing a lot of uncertainty and fear, and Rebecca knows that well. She engages with every family when they arrive, detailing her helpful role, and then provides comforting words of support during their stay.

"Recently, a family on Rebecca's unit was approached and asked for feedback about their stay," said Brian. "They immediately began to praise Rebecca's hard work and the cleanliness of the unit. More importantly, they spoke about how she had become part of their family through her attentiveness and genuine caring."

In fact, Rebecca was recently recognized by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as a "Hometown Hero" because of her kindness, compassion and commitment to her job.

In her interview with reporter Bryan Mena, Rebecca said, "Cleaning has always been normal for me, but we had to start being more on our toes [because of COVID-19]. We wipe doorknobs, clean bathrooms, pick up trash, mop, dust and wipe everything constantly. I'm just a person that likes to keep busy … but I enjoy it."

Across Cook Children's, our staff continues to work tirelessly to ensure that patients find care and healing within our walls. We also make sure that they are able to do that safely and without fear. In today's world, we know how important that is to children and their families. The next time you find yourself walking through our medical center and notice your reflection in the floor, think of our hardworking EVS staff. They are frontline heroes too.

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