woman cleaning a patient's room

The following is the second installment of a three-part series CleanLink.com created based on a question and answer interview held with Laurie Sewell, CEO of Servicon Systems. Part three will go live on June 3. To read part one, click here.

CleanLink: Have you recommended any cleaning processes in hospitals that are different from what was being done before COVID?

Sewell: The main difference in our recommendations to healthcare centers, based on what we learned during COVID, is that facilities should be cleaned and disinfected in a way that was previously reserved for operation rooms. This is, of course, to stop or slow the passing of disease. Healthcare centers' environmental services (EVS) staff should be using the best chemistry, such as hypochlorous acid, which is known to kill C.diff and C. Auris. 

We also see an increased need for EVS workers to be perceived as an expert and caring when cleaning facilities, as they are visible representations of the healthcare center. Do they all have the right PPE? The right gear? The right process? 

Lastly, on a technical note, there should be hands-free and touch-free systems wherever possible, plus all furniture and fabrics that can’t be cleaned ought to be removed and replaced. 

Having patients feel comfortable is no longer about a pretty waiting room or elevator, it’s about a clean and disinfected waiting room, elevator and cafeteria. 

CleanLink: What sets Servicon apart from other EVS partners like Sodexo? What can other small businesses learn from Servicon in the maintenance industry?

Sewell: Firstly, Sodexo and our competitors are great, but they are giants in the industry and more generalized. We aren’t a goliath, we are smaller, specialized and local, but this allows us to get to know our partners, respond with agility to changes, and customize our approach to each client’s needs. 

Secondly, we take special pride in how we train and develop our EVS staff, knowing that this empowers them to be leaders who make wise decisions in the moment on site.

While the sanitation and maintenance industry can suffer turnover and a somewhat unsexy reputation, we are gratified by the satisfaction and retention of our employees. 

We are also committed to shifting public perception about the jan/san industry. For example, when we had a group of young students visit our headquarters in Culver City, California, I asked them, “Based on what you see, what do you think we do here?” They answered with things like: “I think you’re a startup,” or that we are a science or technology company. This was awesome to hear. 

I am proud that Servicon has a LEED-certified building and that I got to help create an award-winning learning facility on site. Things do look a little high-tech around here. 

Thanks to our smaller size, we can choose to be a sustainable business, invest in [learning and development] and get to know our team personally. This leads to building long-lasting relationships all around and providing the nimble service our customers were so grateful for during [the COVID-19 pandemic.]

One more thing: We grew during the pandemic. In 2020, we hired 600 people while so many other companies were furloughing. We were able to because we are privately owned, agile, and can do what the big three cannot since we aren’t beholden to shareholders. We are beholden to our clients. This is not to toot our own horn, but to show the resilience and power of smaller businesses. We know that we won't keep a partner if we don’t treat them well while delivering above and beyond on results and efficiency. 

This is huge! When our competitors lost revenue due to COVID-19 they had to make-up losses, so many of them billed more to do this; adding a surcharge on their services when hospitals needed their support the most. But we have in-house council, processes and procedures, that meet requirements while allowing our ship to turn swiftly.

CleanLink: How important is the relationship between EVS and nursing staff?

Sewell: This is critical. Nursing staff is one of the most important departments to connect with in order to get throughput right. 

For accurate timing, there must be trust between EVS and nursing staff. They work together to serve and support the patient. They are partners … either they flow and collaborate or they collide. We have great admiration for nurse’s job and role in health care. 

EVS’s job is to make the nurse’s life is easier and safer. 

CleanLink: Is there any difference between EVS work pre- and post-COVID?

Sewell: Yes. Pre-COVID, EVS workers were overlooked. Post-COVID, the role of the EVS staff has been elevated in public perception as light has been shone on the value of patient interaction and the quality of those connections while outside visitors have been restricted. 

Today, EVS workers are getting more questions and feeling public curiosity as people want to feel safe and protected. Servicon employees are being made leaders and ambassadors for health. 

The bad news is that COVID came and the effects of the pandemic have been devastating. The good news is that we learned to do what we do even better than we did before and in non-patient areas — I hope we will never go back.