My Less-Than-Ideal Experience at the Hospital

I recently visited a loved one at the hospital, which offered me the opportunity to observe environmental services practices first hand. I’m sad to say, it wasn’t the experience I was hoping for.

First off, it’s a rare occasion when I can walk the halls of a facility like that (which I suppose I should be thankful for - my loved ones are generally healthy). Normally, when I am visiting a hospital, it’s because I was invited and am receiving a tour. And when one is invited, it’s all too common to see staff on their best behavior and practices being performed at textbook precision. This time, I got to see what every other visitor and patient sees. And lets just say I was thankful that I was there to bring my grandfather home.

Also, I’d like to preface this by saying that I do understand many of the challenges EVS staff face. Although the family that was with me was less than pleased, I like to think that my opinions of this facility are more sympathetic. That said…

There were small observations, of course. For example, it was a snowy and wet day, so it wasn’t surprising that the tile floor inside the entrance was wet and dirty from ice melt. There was a wet floor/caution sign, but there should have been additional matting covering the slippery tile. I made everyone stop and wipe their feet on what matting was available before proceeding on, but not every hospital visitor would do that.

While walking the halls, I also noticed an abandoned EVS cart. It was a high-end, pleasant-looking cart with lockable compartments, but all were left open, revealing various chemicals. And from what I could tell, the cart was left abandoned. There were no rooms in that hallway, and there were no people either. Not an ideal observation, but there could be any number of reasons for this to happen.

My biggest concerns came once I entered the patient area.

I had a few concerns with the single-use restroom just a few doors away from my grandfather. There was a wet floor sign left in the doorway, although the floor was not wet. Not uncommon, but it was placed in a way that it had to be moved in order to actually use the restroom. Gross, but moving on. I used the restroom and went to the sink to wash up. After wetting my hands, I was faced with an empty soap dispenser.

Using a paper towel and careful not to touch anything, I walked out and asked the nurses at the station if they could, first, call their EVS department and notify them that they were out of soap, and then asked where the nearest restroom was where I could wash my hands. The response I received was, “there is hand sanitizer right there if you need it.” Um, no, I need a restroom and you need soap.

I wasn’t exactly making friends.

I found another restroom, washed my hands and was hoping that the problems I was seeing in my first 15 minutes at this hospital were a fluke.

I got to the patient room and I asked the three other people with me to all use the hand sanitizer that was available just inside the door. They all complied (probably so they didn’t have to listen to me rant about the importance of doing so).

Then, a nurse walked in just behind me. Her sole task was to remove the IV from my grandfather. She walked in and instantly walked over to his bedside. Standing next to him, I stopped her and asked that she first, please, sanitize. In response, I received a frustrated look and explanation that it wasn’t necessary. I responded that her EVS manager might argue otherwise and felt compelled to share a few stats on hospital acquired infections and cross-contamination. My husband interrupted saying, “She’ll stop with the stats if you just do it.” And so she sanitized.

After she left, my grandfather thanked me. He said that the nurses never listened to him, but the last thing he wanted was to end up back in the hospital again anytime soon. And if a little sanitizer could help that, all the better.

I was in this hospital no more than 20 minutes and was thankful to be leaving. Before I left though, I got the name of the EVS manager, so I could reach out. He was very apologetic and also appreciative of my observations, assuring me that changes would be made.

I realize there is only so much a manager can do. Yes, there should have been more mats. I got there early in the morning and the snow had just started, so maybe they were on their way. As for the cart, it’s possible I walked by just as the staff member stepped into a supply closet or behind a closed door.

But, managing stock - especially soap in a hospital - is extremely important. Who knows how long the stock was low, but the rest of the restroom was clean, so it hadn’t been that long since staff was in there.

And I know EVS managers only have so much control over the nurses, but the overall dismissal of proper hand hygiene by the nursing staff was scary. Clearly, some more training is in order.