The training of staff and the scheduling of cleaning also play critical roles in lowering noise generated by EVS staffs.

“Scheduling is absolutely the No. 1 thing,” says Rathey. “There needs to be a management protocol to schedule the workflow when patients are not in those areas. And if the patient is in the room, a lot of your cleaning should involve damp mopping and microfiber, instead of equipment.”

Duke’s EVS department teams with the nurse manager on each floor to schedule cleaning. They’ve identified that the best time to clean is after first rounds are complete.

“We do not schedule any floor care after 10 p.m. or before 6 a.m. either; the bulk of our daily cleaning and floor care is done when patients are awake,” says Johnson. “Not only are we not disturbing patients when they are trying to sleep, but they get to see the great work we are doing. We’re not hidden away performing the work in the background. We are at the forefront so patients can see what we are doing and ask questions.”

Because so much cleaning is done during the day, Duke housekeepers are armed with tablet computers, which give them instant notifications of when a room is dirty, when patients are out, when rooms are being cleaned and when the room is finished.

But even with the best schedule, there will be times when cleaning with patients in the area is essential. That’s why staff should be trained in how to interact with occupants. They should enter patient rooms by first introducing themselves and announcing what they are there to do. They need to knock and ask permission to clean, rather than just start the task. Some housekeeping operations do roleplaying to prepare the staff to do this.

Poole states that managers need to professionalize training, and emphasize that cleanliness and good patient relationships are the responsibility of all staff.

“Workers must be trained to move in a quiet fashion,” he says. “There needs to be synergy so that everyone works together and comes out with the same results. Housekeepers need to understand that people are recovering and they need quiet.”

Cleaning workers should be taught that everyone in the hospital is responsible for keeping noise levels down, including them, states Johnson.

“It takes all of us to be part of the solution,” he says. “We all have an impact on noise and we have to work together to address it.” 

RONNIE GARRETT is a freelancer based in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.

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Equipment Maintenance That Controls Cleaning Noise