EVS team crucial to creating and maintaining a safe, healing environment of care

August 1, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

The name Environmental Services, or EVS, brings to mind the important and tangible work of creating a clean, safe and functional environment for patients, visitors and employees. Through cleaning and disinfecting patient, staff and public areas, restocking supplies, handling and removing hazardous waste, and overseeing pest control on the main medical campus, the EVS team helps prevent injury and infection and maintain the physical assets of Michigan Medicine.

Faculty and staff who frequent the main medical campus likely have seen EVS team members busy at work throughout the facilities there.

What most people don’t see — and many don’t realize — is that EVS employees also play an integral role on patient care teams throughout the hospitals.

Safety first

“The role of EVS is to help provide a safe, clean environment for our patients, their families and our medical staff,” said Maurits Hughes, director of Logistics and Support Services at Michigan Medicine.

“Environmental Services is almost an extension of Infection Prevention,” he said. “I see our team members as infection prevention technicians. They receive a high level of training that follows infection prevention standards, and they partner with medical staff to make sure the environment is safe for all parties.”

Laura Galunas, D.N.P., M.B.A., O.C.N., Med-Surg BC, CNML, is the clinical nursing director for University Hospital’s 8A unit. Her team values the important partnership they have with John Paison, the unit custodian.

Arkeem Kirk and some of his 8D teammates.

“John’s been with us for many, many years. His role is one of the most important roles in the care of the oncology patient,” said Galunas. “Our patients have low blood counts which means they are prone to infection. Cleanliness is of utmost importance, and John knows this.”

“Arkeem is an essential member of our team,” said Deanna Bitner, clinical nursing director for UH 8D, referring to Arkeem Kirk, 8D unit custodian. “We all function more effectively and efficiently when our work areas are clean and tidy.”

A familiar and trusted presence

The job for EVS staff on the units involves much more than custodial work. It also includes collaboration and frequent communication with the care team, and with patients on the unit.

“Our goal is to provide high-level patient care,” said Hughes. “We want to ensure that patients feel comfortable and know our team is here to provide the highest quality service available.”

Because EVS team members work on their assigned units every day during the week, they have an opportunity to build rapport with patients. They listen to patient concerns, help communicate needs to the care team, and serve as a familiar friendly face — providing a sense of comfort for patients and their families.

“John knows about our patients,” said Heather Pitel, B.S.N., O.C.N., 8A registered nurse. “He knows their families and he gets to know them. I’ve had him actually notice changes in patients and come to me, which is super important, especially if I don’t know the patient that well.

“We kind of rely on him to be our eyes and ears,” said Pitel.

John Paison with 8A colleagues.

“Arkeem is wonderful with our patients,” said Bitner. “He has a positive attitude, and he genuinely wants to help them. He also wants to get to know them as people.”

Samantha Judkins, B.S.N., R.N., CNML, 8D clinical nursing supervisor, agrees.

“I can remember a specific situation in which Arkeem had a connection with a long-term patient of ours,” she said. “This patient had a lot of anger and frustration, and Arkeem was able to connect with him to really, truly provide exceptional care so we could do our job.”

“It’s that whole relationship-based care,” said Bitner, “and that’s inclusive of our EVS member as well.”

Valued team members

Providing a clean, safe environment and helping to create a positive patient experience, it’s clear that EVS staff are valued members of their unit teams.

“John’s a part of everything we do,” said Heather Brown, B.S.N., R.N., O.C.N., 8A educational nurse coordinator. “He actually just won a unit award for best supportive staff, and he brings up a lot of morale for us.”

“He goes out of his way to express his appreciation for our staff and let everyone know how much they’re valued,” she said.

“We have what’s called discharge cards for patients and families to complete before they leave,” said Bitner. “Many times, their comments are about Arkeem, specifically, and how he talked to them and spent time with them.

“Sometimes they feel comfortable telling Arkeem things because they see him as a friend,” she said. “He then gives that information back to me, to our supervisor or to one of the nurses, and that helps with continuity of care.

“He is very genuine, and truly cares about our patients and our unit staff. He’s just a great guy, and we are lucky to have him on our team.”

More on EVS’ role in patient care

The Adult Hospitals leadership team recently released a Short Takes episode to highlight the work of Environmental Services. In the video, EVS team members, nurse leaders and staff from four different units talk about the important role EVS staff members play in creating a clean, safe environment and enhancing patient experience. Check it out below.