Deciphering Hospital Housekeeping: A Definitive Glossary
Hospital housekeeping is also known as ‘Environmental Services’. It’s essential for hospitals to be clean and sterile, making the housekeeping department critical to patient safety.
Understanding the language used in hospital housekeeping helps you carry out your work effectively. We’ve gathered together all the important terms and definitions you’re likely to encounter working in (or with) a hospital, clinic or healthcare facility.
Cleaning Standards and Techniques
Routine Cleaning: Regular cleaning tasks that are performed on a daily or as-needed basis to maintain a clean and safe environment. This includes sweeping, mopping, dusting, and trash removal.
Terminal Cleaning: This is a detailed and intensive cleaning process conducted after a patient is discharged, or a procedure is completed, to ensure that all potential infectious agents are eliminated.
Disinfection: The process of killing or reducing the number of bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens on surfaces to safe levels.
Sterilisation: The process of eliminating all forms of microbial life, including bacteria, viruses, spores, and fungi. This process is typically used for surgical instruments and other medical equipment.
High-Touch Surface Cleaning: Frequent cleaning of areas that are regularly touched, such as doorknobs, light switches, bed rails, and computer keyboards.
Colour-Coded Cleaning: A system that uses different colours for cleaning materials (like cloths and mops) in different areas (like bathrooms, kitchens, and general areas) to prevent cross-contamination.
Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning: Special techniques for cleaning carpets and upholstered furniture, which may harbour allergens and pathogens.
Window Cleaning: Although not directly related to infection control, maintaining clean windows contributes to a pleasant and professional hospital environment.
Biohazard Cleanup: Special procedures for cleaning up biohazard materials, such as blood and other bodily fluids, using protective equipment and approved disinfectants.
Isolation Room Cleaning: These rooms house patients with contagious diseases and require specialised cleaning procedures both during the patient's stay and after their discharge to prevent the spread of infection.
Spill Response: Quick and safe cleanup of spills, particularly those involving biohazard materials, to prevent slips and falls and minimise the spread of pathogens.
Operating Room Cleaning: Operating rooms require meticulous cleaning and disinfection to ensure they remain sterile. This cleaning happens at multiple levels: between surgeries, at the end of each day, and deep cleaning on a weekly or monthly basis.
Ultraviolet Cleaning: Some hospitals use UV light disinfection as an adjunct to chemical disinfection. UV light can kill a variety of harmful organisms and is often used in areas like operating rooms or isolation rooms.
Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour Cleaning: HPV is an advanced form of disinfection, often used in high-risk or hard-to-reach areas (such as seams and joints). A machine disperses hydrogen peroxide vapour throughout a room to eliminate pathogens on all surfaces.
HEPA Vacuuming: High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are used in vacuum cleaners to ensure microscopic particles, including allergens and pathogens, are effectively trapped and not released back into the environment.
Antimicrobial Coating: Antimicrobial surface coatings, such as those containing silver or copper, can reduce the microbial load on high-touch surfaces.
Medical Equipment Cleaning: Specific protocols exist for cleaning various medical equipment, ranging from stethoscopes to MRIs. Each device requires a specific set of cleaning and disinfection procedures to ensure safety and longevity.
Steam Cleaning: Some hospitals employ steam cleaners for certain surfaces or materials. The high temperature of steam can effectively kill many forms of bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
Fogging: Some facilities use fogging machines to disperse disinfectants in a fine mist throughout a room, covering surfaces more evenly and in hard-to-reach areas. It’s useful for cleaning isolation rooms or a ward that has suffered an outbreak.
Hand Hygiene: It's not a technique for cleaning the environment, but hand hygiene is crucial for preventing the spread of pathogens in hospitals. Using handwash and other hand hygiene techniques is essential for all healthcare workers.
Hospital Housekeeping Operations
Cleaning Schedules: This operation involves setting up and adhering to regular cleaning routines that ensure all areas of the hospital are consistently sanitised. The schedules are often divided into daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.
Waste Management: This operation involves the correct handling, segregation, storage, and disposal of different types of waste. This can include general waste, recyclables, and biohazardous waste such as sharps and infectious waste.
Inventory Management: The housekeeping department needs to keep track of cleaning supplies, tools, and equipment to ensure there's always enough stock for daily operations. This involves ordering, receiving, storing, and dispensing supplies.
Laundry Operations: This includes the collection, washing, drying, folding, and distribution of linens and uniforms. It also involves proper handling of soiled linens to prevent the spread of infection.
Patient Room Turnover: The process of cleaning and preparing a patient's room after discharge to make it ready for the next patient. This operation often involves deep cleaning and disinfection.
Infection Control: Housekeeping operations help prevent outbreaks in the hospital. This involves cleaning and disinfection practices that minimise the risk of pathogen transmission.
Maintenance and Repair: While not directly involved in repair work, housekeeping staff often help identify maintenance issues such as leaks, broken equipment, or other facility problems and report them to the appropriate department.
Communication and Coordination: Housekeeping must work closely with other departments (like nursing, infection control, and maintenance) to coordinate cleaning schedules, respond to emergencies, and maintain a clean, safe environment.
Training and Compliance: Housekeeping operations include training staff in the correct cleaning procedures, use of cleaning products, handling of waste, and following safety regulations. Regular audits ensure compliance with hospital policies and regulatory requirements.
Emergency Response: Housekeeping may be called on to respond to various emergencies, such as biohazardous spills, sudden need for room turnovers, or increased cleaning needs during an outbreak.
Collaboration with Clinical Staff: Housekeeping must work closely with clinical staff to ensure rooms are ready when needed and that cleaning procedures don't interfere with patient care.
Budgeting and Staffing: Hospital management must ensure the housekeeping department is appropriately staffed and funded.
Patient Care: This is the primary operation of a hospital. It involves providing medical, surgical, and therapeutic treatments to patients. This encompasses everything from routine check-ups and diagnostic tests to surgeries and emergency care.
Nursing Operations: Nurses provide round-the-clock care to patients, administer medications, assist with procedures, and act as a bridge between doctors and patients. They also monitor patients' progress and update their medical records.
Pharmacy Operations: Hospital pharmacies manage and dispense medications, counsel patients on their use, and work with physicians to ensure appropriate medication therapies.
Laboratory Operations: Hospital labs perform diagnostic tests on patient samples to help physicians diagnose diseases and monitor treatment effectiveness.
Radiology and Imaging Services: These departments provide services like X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds to help diagnose and monitor various conditions.
Emergency Department Operations: This involves the management of emergency medical care, patient triage, and coordination with other departments for critical care cases.
Surgical Services: This involves the coordination and execution of surgeries, including preoperative preparation, conducting surgeries, and post-operative care.
Outpatient Services: Hospitals also provide services to outpatients, who visit for consultations, procedures, or treatments but do not require a hospital stay.
Admission and Discharge: Hospitals have systems for admitting patients, whether for planned procedures or emergencies, and for discharging them after treatment.
Administrative Services: These operations include everything from managing hospital finances, HR, strategic planning, and compliance with healthcare regulations.
Facility Management: This involves maintaining the hospital building and its systems, including electricity, plumbing, HVAC, and more.
Rehabilitation Services: These services include physical, occupational, and speech therapy, to help patients recover and regain their capabilities.
Health Information Management: This involves the management of patient medical records, ensuring their accuracy, security, and accessibility when needed.
Supply Chain Operations: This involves managing the procurement, storage, and distribution of medical and non-medical supplies in the hospital.
Infection Control: Hospitals have infection control programs to prevent the spread of infectious diseases within the hospital, involving everything from hand hygiene to isolation procedures.
Environmental Services: In the context of a hospital, Environmental Services (EVS) often refers to what might traditionally be known as housekeeping.
Health and Safety in Hospitals
Safety Training: All housekeeping staff must be trained in safe practices, such as proper lifting techniques and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Hazardous Materials Handling: Housekeeping staff should be educated on how to handle and dispose of hazardous materials safely.
Hand Hygiene: Hospitals have strict protocols for hand hygiene, as it's one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of pathogens. This involves proper handwashing techniques and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers when soap and water aren't available.
PPE: Depending on the task at hand, healthcare workers may need to wear gloves, masks, gowns, and other protective gear to protect themselves and prevent the spread of infections.
Infection Control Practices: These include isolation protocols for patients with infectious diseases, sterilisation of medical equipment, cleaning and disinfection of surfaces, and management of infectious waste.
Safe Handling of Sharp Objects: Protocols dictate how to safely use, store, and dispose of needles, scalpels, and other sharp objects to prevent needlestick injuries.
Emergency Procedures: Hospitals have protocols for dealing with emergencies like fires, power failures, natural disasters, or violent incidents.
Patient Safety: This includes practices such as correctly identifying patients before providing care, preventing falls, and administering medications safely.
Radiation Safety: For those working around radiology departments or with radiological equipment, there are specific protocols to limit exposure to radiation.
Chemical Safety: Protocols for handling, storing, and disposing of chemical substances are in place to prevent exposure and accidents.
Ergonomics: Guidelines help prevent musculoskeletal injuries related to lifting and moving patients, or from repetitive tasks.
Food Safety: For hospitals with food service operations, they need to follow food safety protocols to prevent foodborne illnesses.
Mental Health and Well-being: There are policies and resources to support healthcare workers' mental health and well-being, given the stressful nature of their jobs.
Workplace Violence Prevention: Policies help protect hospital staff from physical or verbal abuse from patients, visitors, or co-workers.
Biomedical Waste Management: Hospitals generate a significant amount of waste, some of which is hazardous. Safe management and disposal of this waste are crucial.
Occupational Health: This involves monitoring and maintaining the health and safety of healthcare workers, including vaccinations, exposure to infectious diseases, and managing work-related illnesses or injuries.
Universal Precautions: An approach to infection control where all blood and certain body fluids are treated as if known to be infectious for bloodborne pathogens.
Sustainability in Hospital Housekeeping
Green Cleaning: This involves using cleaning products that are environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and biodegradable, reducing harm to the environment and to the health of staff and patients.
Waste Reduction: Strategies include reducing, reusing, and recycling wherever possible, to decrease the volume of waste going to landfills.
Energy Efficiency: This includes practices such as turning off lights and equipment when not in use, using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs, and implementing energy management systems.
Water Conservation: Measures can include using water-efficient appliances, fixing leaks promptly, and encouraging conservation habits among staff.
Sustainable Procurement: Choosing suppliers who are committed to sustainability, and purchasing products that are durable, reusable, or made from recycled or renewable materials.
Indoor Air Quality: Using cleaning products and procedures that reduce volatile organic compounds and other air pollutants can improve indoor air quality.
Sustainable Linen Management: This involves reducing the use and waste of linens, using eco-friendly laundry detergents, and conserving water and energy in laundry operations.
Green Building Design: When possible, incorporating green design elements in the hospital can contribute to sustainability. This can include using renewable materials, maximising natural light, or installing energy-efficient HVAC systems.
Transportation: Encouraging carpooling, public transportation, or cycling can reduce the environmental impact of commuting staff.
Training and Awareness: Educating staff about the importance of sustainability and how they can contribute in their daily tasks is an important aspect of a sustainable housekeeping program.
Technology in Hospital Housekeeping
Automated Cleaning Equipment: This includes machines like robotic vacuum cleaners, automatic scrubbers, and other devices that can clean floors, walls, and other surfaces more efficiently and effectively than manual methods.
Ultraviolet Light Cleaning Devices: These devices use UV light to kill microorganisms, providing an extra layer of disinfection in addition to chemical cleaning methods.
Electrostatic Sprayers: These devices apply a charged mist to surfaces, which ensures even coverage and can help disinfect hard-to-reach areas.
Internet of Things (IoT): Devices connected to the internet can transmit data in real-time, helping to monitor cleanliness levels, schedule cleaning tasks, or alert staff to issues like soap or paper towel dispensers that need refilling.
Computerised Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS): These software systems help manage maintenance tasks, track equipment use and lifespan, schedule preventative maintenance, and manage work orders.
GPS Tracking: GPS technology can be used to track equipment or staff, helping to improve efficiency, security, and response times.
Mobile Apps: Apps can provide housekeeping staff with access to task lists, instructions, and other information on their mobile devices, and can facilitate communication and reporting.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning: These technologies can be used to predict cleaning needs based on past patterns, optimise staff schedules, or automate other aspects of housekeeping operations.
Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID): RFID tags can be used to track equipment, supplies, or even linen, helping to prevent loss and manage inventory.
Green Technology: This refers to equipment or practices that are environmentally friendly, such as energy-efficient appliances or water-saving devices.
Hospital Housekeeping Metrics and Key Performance Indicators
Cleanliness Scores: This metric involves regular cleanliness audits in different hospital areas, often using a standard scoring system.
Infection Rates: A key measure of effectiveness for housekeeping is the rate of healthcare-associated infections in the facility, as a clean environment contributes to infection prevention.
Response Time: This is the time it takes for housekeeping to respond to a cleaning request or incident, such as a spill.
Task Completion Rate: This metric measures the percentage of assigned tasks that are completed within a given timeframe.
Patient Satisfaction Scores: Surveys can be used to measure patients' perceptions of cleanliness and their overall satisfaction with the housekeeping service.
Staff Turnover Rate: High turnover can be a sign of problems with workload, morale, or management in the housekeeping department.
Cost per Cleaned Square Foot: This is a measure of the cost-effectiveness of the housekeeping department, calculated by dividing the total housekeeping costs by the total square footage cleaned.
Waste Management Metrics: This could include measures of the volume of waste generated, the percentage of waste recycled, or the cost of waste disposal.
Training Hours: The number of hours devoted to training staff can indicate the department's commitment to professional development and continuous improvement.
Supply Usage: Tracking the use of cleaning supplies can help identify inefficiencies or problems with inventory management.
Equipment Maintenance Costs: The costs associated with maintaining and repairing cleaning equipment can provide insights into the equipment's reliability and effectiveness of maintenance practices.
Safety Metrics: This could include measures of the number of injuries or accidents involving housekeeping staff, or the number of incidents related to cleaning errors or oversights.
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