There has been a lot of media attention about the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report “To Err is Human,” especially over outbreaks of community-based Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). However, we should concentrate on the second report from the IOM, “Crossing the Quality Chasm,” which provides a road map for quality.
In this report, the IOM describes “Six Aims” to ensure health care quality. The Six Aims are identified as: safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable and patient-centered health care. So what does this mean for ASHES members?
There is no other service in the health care environment that more intimately and consistently touches patients than environmental services. The patient comes in constant contact with our products, from the textiles that they wear and sleep on to the furniture, fixtures and various pieces of equipment they touch on a daily basis.
Taking this into consideration, our base of operations must be in complete balance with the Six Aims. A health care institution may employ the best in clinical care and purchase the finest technology available, yet little of it will matter if the institution is not properly cleaned and disinfected where appropriate. At its very core, environmental services’ reason for being is patient-centered. If we do not perform our roles in a safe, effective, efficient, equitable and timely manner we compromise the quality and health of our patients.
Environmental services staff and the roles they play are often the forgotten heroes in the quest for quality. As the rest of the institution works to achieve and improve upon the Six Aims, our services are often viewed as a way to improve timeliness and the core purpose is defeated. It is our job and obligation to make sure that everyone in the institution and within the industry is aware of how vital our services are to the safety and the healing environment of the patient.
There is no substitute for a clean environment that is free from potentially harmful organisms. The quality initiatives of environmental, waste, linen and transport services cannot be minimized or overlooked as insignificant in the quest for quality improvement.
What can you do? Get involved! In the IOM report, quality is defined as, “The degree to which health services for individuals and populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes and are consistent with current professional knowledge.” Professional knowledge is not limited to our profession. Be knowledgeable about other professions and their roles in quality as well. Be knowledgeable about what is going on in your institution. Make sure when the rest of your institution is working on the Six Aims, that you and your staff are involved and that you have allies in the infection control, safety and quality departments so you are included in the discussions and decisions when initiatives are being developed.
It is common for improvement initiatives that seem simple in the planning phase to turn into a problem for another department further down the continuum of care. This is not done intentionally; it usually occurs from lack of awareness about the rest of the cycle. Do not let this happen to you. Keep your eyes and ears open to what improvements are being discussed in your institution and play an active role.
Quality should be a topic when you meet with your boss, your peers across the institution and your staff. They tend to know more than we do at times, because they are on the units every day.
What steps have you taken in order to be consistent with professional knowledge? Let’s talk about it.
On the road to excellence!
Tina L. Cermignano, CHESP
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia