Behind the Scenes: EVS Unsung Heroes

Behind the Scenes: EVS Unsung Heroes

National EVS Week – September 11-17, 2016

The Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE) of the American Hospital Association (AHA) is celebrating National Environmental Services (EVS) and Housekeeping Week this week.

What is Environmental Services (EVS) in healthcare? Environmental services workers play a critical role in hospital safety. These workers clean the facilities to hospital standards. They aid in the prevention of communicable diseases by thoroughly sanitizing public areas and private rooms alike.

In my over 30 years of experience in the medical and EVS industries, these two scenes play out every day:

“Emergency Department, Danny speaking.”
“Danny, this is Medic 5, we are enroute with an active CPR. Patient is a 59 year old male. We have him intubated. We are 5 out.”

The ED trauma staff begins preparation for the patient, and once the patient arrives, the doctor, nurses and paramedics take over patient care from the in-field paramedics. The medics are cutting off clothing, putting the patient on the automatic defibrillator, starting dual arm IV’s, and taking turns doing chest compressions while the nurses are drawing up cardiac medicines and recording all the events. Whether we are able to save the patient or not, the end result is the room is in utter chaos with blood and bodily fluids on the floor and bed, and lots of debris on the floor from empty medicine cartridge boxes and other items the ED staff has thrown on the floor.

Once the CPR is over, the clean-up process begins so that the patient’s family doesn’t see the mess we’ve made.  EVS is called in to help clean up the debris and floors. Often the process includes being in the room with a dead body.

“EVS, this is Danny in ER.  We have a terminal clean in room 8.”

A terminal clean can be anything from removing bodily fluids to disinfecting the room top to bottom from the scabies, lice or ringworm that was on the last patient in that room.  It’s never a pleasant job.

An EVS Cleaner Mopping The Floor In A HospitalEvery minute of every day, an unsung hero quietly works to make the hospital a place free from germs, bacteria and hospital-acquired infections. The first line of defense in infection control begins with a properly trained and equipped EVS staff. This is the reason I work on both sides of the fence, medical and EVS management. They are both an interesting and necessary function for hospital function. They are exposed to the same pathogens as the most highly trained physician, but they are often overlooked.

EVS personnel understand exactly what chemical or disinfectant that is required to kill c. difficile, MRSA, rhinovirus, and enterovirus, just to name a few.  The staff must know proper linen management so that the linens placed on the beds are germ-free and they are experts in eliminating cross-contamination between rooms or processes. They are on their feet and moving at a fast pace 8-12 hours per shift, thus expending the same amount of energy as the nurses and paramedics in a busy trauma center.  The EVS department is typically managed by a Certified Executive Housekeeper or CHESP-certified professional and receives the same Joint Commission protocol critique as those of patient-critical areas.

The EVS industry has evolved over the years with more efficient equipment, good training programs, professionally-trained and certified managers, and the change to microfiber technology for floorcare and UV disinfecting lights. EVS staff is trained annually in CPR, as often they are the staff member that finds a patient unresponsive. In stroke-center hospitals, they also know the “stroke signs” (FASTFacial droop, Arm drop, Slurred speech and Time) and are authorized to activate the stroke code.

Stroke emergency awareness and recognition signs, medical procedure infographic
Stroke emergency awareness and recognition signs


So, the next time you are in a hospital and see someone cleaning, remember that EVS personnel are medical personnel.  They are an integral part of healthcare. They are the unsung heroes in medicine.

Dannette Heath CEH, IP, Paramedic, EVS Business Development

Dannette Young Heeth, CEH, IP, Paramedic
Varsity Facility Services/Southwest Division
Regional Business Development

During the late 1970’s, Dannette was working in an Arlington, Texas hospital where the Environmental Services Department was outsourced to a janitorial vendor. She became interested in the training and processes required to keep the hospital properly cleaned. On her breaks, she would hang out in the EVS manager’s office to learn everything she could. Several years later, Dannette started a janitorial service, and with her medical background, began seeing ALL buildings as infectious as hospitals. Later in life she married a Flight/Critical Care Paramedic that inspired her to fulfill her dream of being a paramedic as well. She completed EMT-Basic training in 2008, joined MedicOne ambulance company (formerly MedCare), completed paramedic school and licensure in 2010, began the paramedic/RN bridge program, and eventually wound up as a trauma paramedic in a busy ER on the weekends.

In addition to her weekend work as a paramedic, she is involved in business development during the week with the best janitorial service in the world….Varsity Facility Services. Her life is full and busy!

Since starting with Varsity Facility Services in January 2013, doing Regional Business Development for Texas and Arizona, Dannette has already had great success. With her medical background, she was instrumental in obtaining the DaVita Dialysis business (63 locations in Houston); and Mountain Park Health Centers (4 locations) in Arizona.She also played a key role in bringing Varsity’s industry-leading services to Prosperity Bank (Houston); and most recently, State Farm regional offices in Phoenix. She concentrates on locating Fortune 500 companies, medical facilities, universities and national companies that have multiple locations throughout the country who need the level of service that only Varsity is able to provide. She believes in meeting prospective customers face-to-face, and spends at least 60% of her week “in the field” meeting new people and spreading the good news about Varsity to companies that have never heard of us. Her motto is, “The harder I work, the luckier I get!”

Medical Experience
In addition to working with Varsity, Dannette is currently working in the medical field as a trauma paramedic on the weekends at Dallas Regional Medical Center Emergency Department.She has also been an American Red Cross (Dallas Chapter) volunteer since 2007 and is on two of their teams: their Medical Disaster Team and their Disaster Action Team for fires/floods for which she is the Team Leader.She worked as a MedicOne Medical Response paramedic for 4 years.She has also taught infection control to nurses at the Texas Hospital Association; hasbeen a speaker at TORCH (Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals); and served on the Public Health Board, City of Grand Prairie from 2010-2012.

Facility Experience
As well as her impressive medical experience, Dannette has extensive experience in Facility Management and Janitorial.Before joining Varsity Facility Services, Dannette owned numerous janitorial companies. She has also served as Executive Vice President at AHI Facility Services; and as Director of Medical Treatment Facilities at Aztec Facility Services. She served on the BSCAI Board of Directors from 1955-1998; served on the Proctor & Gamble Advisory Board of Directors from 1995-1998; and was a speaker for Sales & Marketing at the 2002 & 2003 ISSA Conventions.

• University of Texas at Arlington
• Southern Methodist University
• National College of Technical Instruction (Paramedic)
• DCCCD nursing (Phi Theta Kappa)

Other experience and certifications:
• Texas State Paramedic, National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians – Paramedic (NREMT-P)
• Infection Preventionist (IP)
• IICRC carpet cleaning
• FEMA disaster paramedic certified
• Wildlands Firefighter
• Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
• CPR instructor
• Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC)
• International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services, 16 Springs Fire Department (New Mexico).
• Disaster Action Team Leader – American Red Cross
• Certified Executive Housekeeper (CEH)

Awards / Honors:
• Won Dallas 100, Inc. 1994 for being one of the fastest growing companies in Dallas.
• 1995 Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce Enterprise of the Year winner

Literary Accomplishments:
• Published over 50 articles with SERVICES magazine and CONTRACTING PROFITS
• Former Columnist for Grand Prairie Chamber of Commerce, “Who’s Who in Grand Prairie”.

Dannette’s hobbies include playing the classical piano since the age of 3, playing pipe organ, writing hymns and she is currently working on 2 books: From Acne to Estrogen, and Crazy Stories from the ER.

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