Environmental services teams struggling to keep up with upgraded cleaning protocols

As hospital environmental services (EVS) staff struggle to keep up with the enhanced cleaning and disinfectant measures made necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many are feeling they provide little value to the health care organizations where they are working, according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection.

The study was conducted by investigators from Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina, to review and identify factors associated with the disinfection practices of EVS workers in health care settings. It found that EVS staff face numerous barriers in performing their jobs: high work demands, us versus them attitudes, interruptions, perceptions of low status or value, and a lack of communication. Investigators determined these barriers could be improved through advanced training on cleaning and disinfection practices.

Many hospital housekeepers do not receive ongoing, systematic training, especially training focusing on interpersonal skills. “To sustain improvements in disinfection practices, education/training sessions need to be continuous,” the study states.

The effectiveness of EVS training needs to be measured through microbial assessments of health care facility areas before and after cleaning. Housekeeping staff also need a basic knowledge of pathogens. “The focus should be on how these pathogens can spread in hospital environments and what procedures EVS workers can implement to prevent the spread,” the investigators wrote.

The researchers stressed that health care organizations must demonstrate a long-term commitment to continuous improvement in disinfection outcomes. They concluded that hospitals and long-term care centers must make more of an effort to train EVS workers and ensure they feel valued.