By Rich Feczko, National Director Standards, Innovation, Global Support
I haven’t experienced anything like the COVID-19 crisis since the Ebola outbreak in 2014, and I realize many other healthcare leaders haven’t either. As we clean patient rooms in “hot spots,” first in Seattle and now in New York, Florida, and elsewhere, we’ve learned to be fluid, nimble, and quick. While we adhere to the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control guidance, there isn’t a complete road map for this crisis. Still, our culture of safety – from hand washing to wearing the right protective equipment – is serving us well.
That culture and our compassion for people is making a significant difference. One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie “Lincoln,” when Abraham Lincoln’s character says, “Do you think we choose the times into which we are born? Or do we fit the times we are born into?” Given the makeup of our associates and their desire to care for patients, all of us were clearly born to fit these times. Maybe you need that reassurance today, too.
Every day, I track patient cases and any exposure to the disease to our associates. Our associates were in Seattle when the virus first appeared and moved quickly and quietly. Like everyone else, we weren’t sure at first how this disease would evolve. We began to understand its nuances there, which helped us learn how to combat it better now. We’ve been able to carry those lessons into California, New York and other parts of the country.
We may have transported patients, cleaned their rooms, or brought in medical equipment without immediately knowing they’re infected. We are continuing to make sure we are doing everything possible to mitigate any exposure to the virus as well as work closely with hospital key stakeholders such as Infection Prevention. Together we’re determining how to further reduce exposure and risk.
Our associates’ dedication and the compassion they are showing is beyond comprehension.
They aren’t just cleaning rooms and transporting patients. That’s the easy part. If a COVID-19 patient is seriously ill and near death, their family members may not be allowed to visit them. In the absence of biological family, our associates become like family to the critically ill. They are with them as they take their final breath, despite only knowing these patients in some cases, for a few hours.
It’s heartbreaking, and it also shows how connected our people are to their purpose. They know their work is meaningful, and they care for their patients, no matter what.
Like many other healthcare leaders, I’m focusing on encouraging and reassuring my teams, especially these days, because people are scared. They worry about taking the disease home and infecting their own families. A manager in our Washington D.C./Virginia region was recently asked to travel to New York and help our staff at a hospital there. He called me and asked me what he should do.
We talked about all of the precautions he needed to take. Of course, he knows how to take care of himself and his staff and realizes his new assignment isn’t any different than what he’s been doing. Sometimes reinforcing what our teams already know to be true is a simple way to lift morale. It’s also crucial that we be clear on boundaries too: I also reminded him that no one is a hero if they are sick and keep working. If he or any other associate gets sick, they need to step back and self-monitor their symptoms.
For Crothall associates, the silver lining is that our training has prepared us for this very moment. Infection prevention is our business. Our partnership with Handwashingforlife® has helped reduce the risk of HAIs and person-to-person illness for years. During this crisis, we continue doing what we’ve always done – following the best practices we know keep people safe.
Everything our housekeeping specialists have been taught – the science of hand hygiene, correct PPE donning and doffing techniques, and the importance of high-touch surface cleanliness – is making a difference. There’s a reason we chose to work in healthcare. As Mr. Lincoln said, we were born to fit these times.