The goal of any Environmental Services Department within a healthcare facility should be to prevent the spread of infectious agents among patients and healthcare workers by meticulous cleaning and appropriate disinfection of environmental surfaces. To reach this goal, the EVS department will need to have a comprehensive training program, the objective of which should be to provide department staff with the information they need to accomplish their jobs safely. The training program should be a part of the big picture of “How to Protect Yourself.” At a minimum the training program should include the following:
- Identification of occupational risks and hazards associated with handling infectious waste.
- Sharps safety.
- Blood borne pathogens.
- Infection control training – (a) Microbiology and (b) Transmission.
- Hand hygiene.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including donning and doffing.
- MSDS and hazards associated with using chemicals (cleaning agents, disinfectants, etc.)
- Product usage training including proper cleaning and disinfection techniques.
The benefit behind breaking the training into sections is two-fold. First, it allows the person responsible for training to involve other departments such as Infection Control or Occupational Health & Safety where specific knowledge and expertise can be called upon. Second, by segmenting the areas into shorter pieces the trainee is not overwhelmed. The individual sections also allow for developing unique methods of delivery. Education should be tailored to the size, topic and needs of the group. Not all programs must be instructor-led in classroom setting. They can also consist of CD programs and/or video-based programs or a series of self-study modules. For example, the product usage training may be better suited to a traditional classroom setting where employees can observe someone performing the task while other sections such as Blood Borne Pathogens can use video-based training. Switching up the method of delivery helps keep the trainee engaged.
A basic understanding of these eight topics doesn’t require a stethoscope or coke-bottle glasses, or even the ability to squint. It takes knowledge, imagination and responsibility. Knowledge… to know basic microbiology, where pathogenic microbes are found, and how they cause disease; to know how cleaning and disinfectant products should be used; to know how to be protected from exposure to blood borne pathogens and sharps injuries; about the proper use of PPE. Imagination… to be able to actually picture the microbes all around us. Responsibility… to take reasonable action to prevent disease.
One person dies every six minutes from hospital-acquired infection. It’s tragic that this is allowed to continue and that an Environmental Services department can be allowed to operate without ongoing, targeted and evolving education.
Time spent properly training staff is an investment that pays dividends for a long time. Training should be a constant process, not just something you do for new employees or to meet the annual requirement. Whenever new products, equipment or procedures are introduced into your department, all staff should be trained on their safe and proper use. Research has shown that adults learn differently than children do, they generally learn more and retain more if they are involved in the training process. Adults learn best by doing, not by listening to lectures or by viewing videos. Lectures and videos have a place in the training process, but trainee involvement needs to be included.
Feel free to share your thoughts and comments.