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The following is the third and final installment of a three-part question and answer series with Laurie Sewell, CEO of Servicon Systems. Click here to read part one. To review part two, click here.

CleanLink: What is the general public perception of EVS? Does this need to change and why? How has the impact of COVID changed this?

Sewell: Public perception of EVS workers has shifted in the last year as they are heralded as heroes and frontline workers. The belief has shifted in general, and if you have been in a hospital this year then you likely know it first hand. 

Our concern is that people’s memories are short-lived and that appreciation for the cleaning and maintenance industry will boomerang back to post-COVID standards. As leaders in the industry, we must remain diligent in continuing to show the value of our work to the general public. 

Share your stories. We need to speak up for our staff, sharing the value of these smart, committed and caring social contributors. 

Clients have said for instance: “We would have had to shut down our business if it weren’t for you.” 

What is that worth? Grocery store clerks, restaurant servers, nurses -- you don’t notice them until they’re not there. Perception around the importance of custodians in EVS and infection prevention (IP) needs to normalize from taken-for-granted to gratitude and respect.

CleanLink: What is the value of creating a shift in perception around EVS employees within health care or beyond?

Sewell: When we elevate pride among workers in maintenance industries, from food prep to construction, we experience greater retention, an increase in quality of service, more stability and social harmony. 

Moving from an unsexy reputation to one of curiosity and humble appreciation for the people who make our world run smoothly, cleanly and safely benefits us all, both from a qualitative and quantitive standpoint. 

For [health care] particularly, patient satisfaction depends upon experience during recovery. Interaction with EVS plays an important role in how safe they feel to heal in their room. 

In a healthcare environment, your makeup is off, so to speak. Dignity matters. Cultivating a culture of compassion and respect all around is paramount. 

Something that everyone feels leveled by is the experience or fear of being unwell. Being dependent upon others. We are all going to experience this at some point. Don’t you want to be taken care of by people who are doing their best and treating you and each other well? 

We need to go deeper than a title, beyond differences and connect through the dignity of our common humanity. Then our world and our organizations can thrive because we see how each part supports the whole.

CleanLink: What have you learned from working with county facilities, such as Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center (LACUSC), versus specialty medical centers like City of Hope?

Sewell: Clearly, there are vast differences between public and private healthcare centers like LA County and City of Hope. But what is common to both, are stringent and technically complex requirements. 

Thanks to working with LACUSC, we have learned to take non-skilled workers and teach them to follow some of the most stringent, technically complex requirements. We also understand the power of applying human care to all interaction touchpoints.

Our experience has helped us synthesize the value of meeting rigorous metrics for success on a standards and requirements front and attention to thoughtful human interaction.

Wanting to summarize the entire discussion, Sewell had the following to say:

Across the board, there is a vital intersection between the roles and responsibilities of nurses and EVS workers. 

When medical staff feel safe and supported in their work environment, then they can focus more on their job of saving lives. 

This is why we see EVS as a strategic HC partner. Recognizing and cultivating the caregiver nature within the maintenance industry at large creates a virtuous circle that nurtures collective wellbeing. 

Let’s not forget the lessons we learned during COVID.

To the individual, please see and thank the people who make your life safe, sanitary, and supported. To the caregiving institution, be sure to value EVS in your facility and see these workers as the partners they are to your patients’ and staffs’ success.