Do you ever think about housekeeping staff in hospitals? Probably not. The COVID-19 pandemic, though, brought many hospital departments to public attention in their heroic efforts to protect patients from the highly-contagious disease. 

Hospital housekeeping is one of those departments. We cover it today, from its importance in healthcare, the rules governing the workers, to the processes they perform to ensure patients have the best chance for survival. 

What is the Importance of Cleaning in Hospitals?

Hospitals, medical clinics, and other healthcare facilities are full of patients who are already sick or recovering from surgery. This makes them vulnerable to nosocomial infections, also known as healthcare-associated infections (HAI). Urinary tract infections, surgical site infections, gastroenteritis, meningitis, and pneumonia are just a few of these HAIs.

Healthcare facility cleaning services work hard to prevent the spread of germs and illnesses like HAI. Hospital housekeeping does so by keeping patient rooms, the emergency department, lobbies, waiting areas, public restrooms, and corridors clean and sterile.

Who’s Involved in Hospital Housecleaning? 

The major difference between cleaning in a hospital versus regular housekeeping is that hospital housekeepers must be certified in bloodborne pathogen training. Issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) in 1991, this special certification teaches how to safely clean up bodily fluids, which can contain dangerous viruses like HIV or hepatitis. 

The most critical requirement by OSHA is that workers wear personal protective equipment (PPE). They must wear rubber gloves for example in all situations with potentially infectious materials. Other PPE may include masks, protective gowns, splash shields, and shoe covers. Employers are required to provide them whenever their workers are near hazardous materials.

OSHA in 2001 updated the certification with the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, which added more detail to the standard.

Cleaning services working in hospitals are also strongly encouraged to follow guidelines and protocols from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

How is Cleaning Done in Hospitals?

Hospital housecleaning is usually broken down into the following parts:

Levels of Cleaning within a Healthcare Facility

There are several levels of cleaning practiced by most hospitals.

Occupied is the cleaning of a patient’s room while they’re present. It’s important such work is done with minimal disturbance to patients.

Turnover room cleaning is done after the previous patient has left and before the arrival of the next one.  

Terminal cleaning is the thorough cleaning and disinfection of all surfaces in the room. This includes the floors and reusable equipment. Unlike the first two levels, terminal cleaning can involve an individual ward, a hospital unit, or the whole healthcare facility. 

Routine cleaning of the hospital should be undertaken at least daily. 

Enhanced routine cleaning, which is a minimum of twice daily, is recommended during an outbreak of infection or an unusual increase in the incidence of a particular organism. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent example requiring an enhanced cleaning regimen. 

Cleaning Routine

Hospital housekeepers are trained to clean in all the above levels in specific ways. 

Cleaner to dirtier surfaces – This is done to reduce the chance of cross-contamination. Pathogens like germs and bacteria won’t be transferred from a dirtier surface to a cleaner one

High to low / Top to bottom – Cleaning crews are trained to start cleaning from the tallest point of an object to the lowest. Examples would be the top of a hospital room window or workstation on wheels and work down. This process eliminates the chances of dirt or dust falling and contaminating an already cleaned area.

One direction (clean in a pattern) – Cleaning staff go through rooms in organized ways to make sure they don’t miss any areas. Two of the most common patterns include: 

  • Left to right or clockwise, starting from near the door and ending on the other side of the room.
  • Back to front, starting from the furthest wall to the room’s entrance.

Prioritizing High Touch Surfaces – High-touch surfaces in hospitals include bed railings, counter-spaces, handwashing sinks, and floors. Cleaning them especially in an occupied patient room is an important part of housekeeping in hospitals. 

Cleaning vs Disinfection

Most people think cleaning and disinfection are one in the same. They are not for hospitals and have specific meanings. 

Cleaning is defined as a process that removes visible dirt and contamination. Splatter from condiments of a fast food meal, the dirt marks from shoes, and a spilled soda are examples of such items. Warm water and a detergent are usually effective for decontaminating the surfaces.

Disinfection is the process that reduces the number of microorganisms on surfaces and equipment. They are usually not visible to the naked eye. The various HAIs mentioned earlier are an example. Another are those pathogens found in blood or bodily fluids. Hospital housekeepers usually clean these surfaces first then follow up disinfecting them with hospital grade disinfectants.

Hospital cleaning staff must track and document their work. Afterwards, the cleaning is often validated through testing with scientific instruments like an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meter or similar tool.

The governmental protocols, the specific cleaning methods, and training explain why it takes a bit longer for cleaning staff to get through each room in a hospital. 

How Medical Computers Help with Housecleaning in Hospitals

The specific rules and protocols of hospital housecleaning has the healthcare industry turning to hospital computer systems to handle them. Characteristics they look for include:

Antibacterial – Computers can be major breeding grounds for pathogens especially high-touch surfaces like touch glass screens, keyboards, and the mouse. While antibacterial sprays can be applied to them as well as the computer casing, they require periodic reapplication which is a time-consuming chore. Medical computers with antimicrobial properties built into the plastic and touch glass prevent bacterial growth without the need of reapplication.

Fanless Design – Airborne particulates like dust can carry dangerous pathogens. These can be easily kicked up and circulated by people. To prevent this, computers like medical tablets can be equipped with fanless cooling systems. They stay cool without drawing in air and blowing it around the room. 

IP65 Rated – Standing for “Ingress Protection”, an IP65 Rated medical computer or medical grade monitor is sealed against jets of water or other liquids. The advantage in hospitals is obvious as cleaning staff can use water, liquid detergents, and hospital grade disinfectants on such electronics without harm. 

Closing Comments

Hospitals are full of infectious materials from bodily fluids, airborne germs, and pathogens brought in by visitors and staff. Hospital housekeepers and cleaning services have the vital task of keeping medical facilities clean and sterile to prevent further illness.  

If your hospital is interested in how medical computers can help its janitorial services, contact a representative from Cybernet. 

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