On the front lines of COVID-19: hospital cleaning crews

On the front lines of COVID-19: hospital cleaning crews

Health
Cleaning and disinfecting COVID-19 rooms is an intensive process that requires Charlotte Shackleford and her colleagues to wear full personal protective gear.

Cleaning and disinfecting COVID-19 rooms is an intensive process that requires Charlotte Shackleford and her colleagues with the environmental services team at Tidelands Health to wear full personal protective gear.

The weapons Charlotte Shackleford uses in the battle against COVID-19 are different than those of a doctor or nurse, but they’re critically important just the same.
As a member of the environmental services team at Tidelands Health, Shackleford cleans and disinfects rooms used to care for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. For the safety of other patients, specific rooms at Tidelands Health hospitals have been designated for that purpose.
Cleaning and disinfecting COVID-19 rooms is an intensive process that requires Shackleford and her colleagues to wear full personal protective gear, including an N95 respirator, face shield, gown, two layers of gloves, shoe coverings and other equipment.

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The goal is to systematically eliminate the virus and other germs from the room to protect care providers, patients and anyone else who enters.
“I look at it is if I was going into that room or one of my family members is going into that room,” says Shackleford, who has 15 years of experience cleaning and disinfecting rooms as a housekeeper at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital. “I want to make sure that room is cleaned to the best of my abilities.”

'Supercharged'

Although cleaning and disinfecting rooms used by people with potentially contagious illnesses is nothing new to the environmental services team at Tidelands Health, the rigorous processes already in place have been enhanced even further with the coronavirus in mind.
Walls, floors, beds, handles, tabletops, remote controls, light switches, clocks and more are meticulously cleaned and disinfected. To standardize the process, housekeepers work in a clockwise direction within each room.
Special disposable privacy curtains are used so they can be replaced between patients.

“It’s really our routine cleaning – but supercharged,” says Lisa Hadwin, director of environmental services for the health system. “When we’re cleaning surfaces, we’re using disinfecting wipes that are considered best in class for this virus, and we’ve been using them since 2017.”
The team has also implemented enhanced cleaning protocols in the public spaces at Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital and Tidelands Waccamaw. Elevator buttons, waiting room chairs, door handles and other high-touch surfaces receive special attention.
Plus, the environmental services team has focused additional attention on outpatient locations frequented by individuals at high risk of complications from COVID-19, such as cancer patients.
“We’ve always been very thorough in our cleaning and disinfecting,” Hadwin says. “In the face of COVID-19, we’ve taken it a notch higher.”

'This is what I signed up for'

Naomi Thomas, lead housekeeper at Tidelands Georgetown, says the environmental services team works closely with the health system’s clinical team to coordinate cleaning and disinfecting patient rooms.
To help conserve personal protective equipment, which is in limited supply across the country, and to reduce the number of people who interact with COVID-19 patients, the health system’s nursing team volunteered to remove trash and conducting basic cleaning until rooms used by COVID-19 patients are vacated and ready to be disinfected.

Naomi Thomas, in yellow, is part of the tight-knit team in the critical care unit at Tidelands Georgetown.

Naomi Thomas, in yellow, works closely with the team in the critical care unit at Tidelands Georgetown.

“We all work as a team,” Thomas says. “We are thinking about saving the life that’s in the room. It has drawn all of us closer.”
Although the personal protective gear used when cleaning and disinfecting rooms puts her at low risk of an infection herself, Thomas says it’s natural to be at least somewhat concerned.
Still, she says, that’s not going to keep her from doing her work.
“I’m concerned, but at the same time, this what I signed up for,” she says. “We have a job to do.”

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