When it comes to the hospital hierarchy, doctors are usually at the top. People give them the respect and credit they’re due—after all, they save lives on a daily basis and help people feel better when they’re ill.
But although doctors deserve a great deal of gratitude, other essential personnel are often forgotten or ignored in comparison, even though hospitals could not run without them. Cleaning staff, for instance, are often among the most invisible of hospital personnel, but their work is absolutely crucial for the health and safety of patients.
Cleaning staff at hospitals all over the country consistently go above and beyond in fulfilling their daily responsibilities. It’s time to recognize the crucial role they play in providing safe and high-quality care by giving them the credit they’re due.
Celebrating Hospital Cleaning Staff’s Nonstop Work During the COVID Pandemic
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, not much was known about how the virus spreads. As a result, a top concern was keeping things scrupulously clean, especially in hospital settings where contact with COVID patients and staff members is essential.
Janitors and cleaning staff at hospitals were not only spending extra hours keeping hospitals clean, but they were putting themselves and their loved ones at risk. After all, before the vaccinations were available, cleaning staff were routinely interacting with rooms where COVID patients were being treated, making them frontline workers in every sense. Additionally, the cleaners they use often contain potentially harmful ingredients, increasing their risks.
We need to understand just how much these frontline workers sacrificed for the people in their communities—and how little thanks they have gotten. We need to celebrate those who went above and beyond during the pandemic, even knowing that they were putting themselves at risk to keep patients and medical staff safe.
The Importance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Throughout the Pandemic
Early in the pandemic, supplies were scarce. Cleaning staff often had little more than gloves and eye protection for personal protective equipment (PPE) when N-95 masks were in short supply. Knowing what we know now about how the virus spreads, this lack of equipment certainly increased the risks to those responsible for cleaning hospitals during the pandemic.
PPE is essential for those who are coming into close contact with people who have tested positive for dangerous viruses. Equipment shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic put people who work on the front lines at even greater risk for contracting the virus. Medical personnel was prioritized in the distribution of PPE, often leaving those cleaning the hospital unprotected.
Strategies for Creating a Healthy Workplace Going Forward
Frontline workers have shown us just how unhealthy and downright dangerous the workplace can be. It’s important for employers to consider this carefully as people return to work. Everyone deserves the right to be as safe at work as possible.
Most people who get into janitorial work don’t think that they’re doing something risky. They are taking on hard, essential, honest work to support their families. Even if there is some risk involved, employers need to do their part to mitigate that risk as much as possible and create a healthy workplace.
In the hospital setting, the janitorial staff is sometimes hired by third-party agencies, which may not have the same policies as the hospital itself. It’s up to hospitals to take care of all the people who work for them—even if that means putting pressure on a third party to provide proper PPE and take other precautions to protect their staff.
Putting clear policies for staff safety in place won’t fix everything. But it’s a step in the right direction toward a healthier workplace and will help protect workers if and when the pandemic resurges or a new one crops up.
Cleaning Staff Deserve Recognition
By this point in the pandemic, experts know more about the COVID-19 virus and vaccines are available. This makes going to work a lot safer for hospital cleaning staff, but they are still often overlooked when it comes to recognition for the work they do.
Cleaning staff may not have the education of a doctor, but they work extremely hard every day to create a healthy environment for healthcare workers and patients alike. They may work long hours and for less pay than they deserve. We need to give them more recognition, respect, and gratitude—they help prevent the spread of dangerous illnesses.