Jarreau Jean-Woods is on the front lines at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. Without him, infection could run rampant and safety could be compromised, everywhere from the emergency room to the maternity ward. But Jean-Woods is not a physician or nurse — he’s part of the often anonymous housekeeping team. “We don’t just clean rooms — we keep hospital-acquired diseases in check and make sure patients and workers are happy and satisfied,” said Jean-Woods, 32, of Revere. Jean-Woods about why the “environmental services” department is much more than mops and buckets.
“Housekeeping is one of those routine amenities that you may not notice — unless it was missing. Imagine if the floors were dirty, counters unwiped, trash overflowing. Then the importance of cleanliness would be on the forefront of your mind.
“In hospitals in particular, the germ C. difficile can spread from contaminated surfaces. Following infection control procedures can lower these rates quickly. In the patient room alone, just think of all the equipment and surfaces that need to be disinfected: Not just toilets, sinks, and beds, but also curtains, walls, and even EKG monitors, walkers, and other equipment.
“We have had our share of crises, including a sprinkler malfunction where we had to relocate all the patients, then bleach the entire area. We’ve also had patients with bed bugs, and once discharged, all the mattresses, crevices, and furniture have to be inspected and fumigated. This is very invasive, cleaning-wise, and one of those calls that I don’t like getting.
“I’ve been here for over 12 years; I started in transport, taking patients to and from test sites, [the] ER, or other locations. Then I moved into a dispatcher’s role, which involved assigning all the requests that came into the computer system, managing and distributing linen. Now I oversee supplies and cleaning of the outpatient and inpatient areas. I have to say, I’m very meticulous now that I’m in housekeeping. I have to be. Our patients’ lives are at stake.”
Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.