Benjamin Kenyon is a seasoned professional in the field of environmental services, has dedicated his career to ensuring the cleanliness and safety of healthcare facilities and various other spaces. With an impressive track record that spans over a decade, Benjamin's journey through various roles and responsibilities has made him a key figure in Saratoga Hospital's environmental services department and earned him recognition as an AHE EVS Emerging Leader in 2023. In this article, we will delve into some of the top priorities and challenges facing EVS leaders.
Q: First of all, Ben, congratulations on being recognized as an AHE EVS Emerging Leader. How did you get to where you are today and would you tell us a little more about your background?
Ben Kenyon: Twelve years ago, I took a job at a hospital because I had my own cleaning company. But it was a feast or famine situation and I was tired of having the famine. So I got a part time job cleaning offices on one of the satellite locations for the hospital. And then over time, I started working at the main campus more and more and enjoyed it. About five or six years ago, I took the role of a supervisor for the evening shift at the hospital. And that's when I realized that I didn't know as much about cleaning as I thought I did, so I went to a train-the-trainer course for one of AHE certifications back in 2017 for their CHEST program. I remember as I was sitting there and going over all the information, I was like, wow, there's a lot of stuff that I should know and that I need to learn. I delved into a lot of the classes online and I started really trying to familiarize myself with what working in environmental services was like.
Q: In your experience, what are some common misconceptions or myths about environmental services that you believe should be dispelled or put away?
Ben Kenyon: I think a lot of times, especially when you're looking at resumes or advertisements for jobs, it always says Housekeeping. I think it really undersells what an EVS Technician is doing because you can clean something and make it look clean, but it's not actually being disinfected the way it needs to be at a hospital. It's not just about making it look pretty, it's making sure that it’s clean and has been disinfected the right way. And that's why we try to go toward the Environmental Services Technician title rather than housekeeping.
Q: You attended AHE this year, are there any emerging technologies or innovations on the horizon you believe will revolutionize the field of infection prevention? Are you preparing your department to adopt some of those advancements?
Ben Kenyon: There's a lot of cool stuff out there. I think the challenging part is getting the funding for it through the hospitals. The advances they're making in UV technology stands out to me because that's what we use the most, at least in my facility. I saw a UV device that claimed would kill C. auris, but it was a handheld device and would take quite a bit of time, but it demonstrates that the industry is moving in the right direction. In terms of other technologies, the foggers and misters have always intrigued me as well. I know there's some VR technology out there for training purposes, which is certainly interesting.
Q: Do you have any insights into how you build and foster a collaborative relationship with other healthcare departments such as nursing and infection prevention, to ensure a cohesive approach to cleaning and disinfecting your hospital?
Ben Kenyon: That's always a challenge in healthcare because there's so many moving parts. Fortunately, at our facility, we have a really good relationship with infection prevention and with nursing. So on the patient floors, it's pretty well established what we clean, what we don't clean. The thing we're working on right now is really getting our OR situated. We've recently established a cleaning matrix with the OR staff over whose responsibility it is, whether it's EVS and how often EVS is supposed to clean versus how often the OR techs are responsible for cleaning each area or item. We also separated things BioMed has to come in for as well as Engineering. That's something that we've recently implemented because we're really working on strengthening our OR operations locally.
Q: With the rapid evolution of pathogens and infectious diseases, how do you ensure your team stays updated on the latest trends and research in infection prevention and effective cleaning processes?
Ben Kenyon: So that's where the leadership comes into play because I feel like we have to understand those things in order to teach the department. While you might say not everyone in EVS needs to know all the microbiology behind it, there's no reason that they can't. Because if they understand that, then they better understand what they're dealing with. They're more confident in the approach, and they're more confident in being protected by PPE if they understand the way everything works, meaning there's less fear on their part. During the COVID pandemic, that was very evident. There was massive fear about COVID, but once we trained all the staff about exactly what COVID is, what the SARS virus is, how it spreads, and how to protect themselves, they became confident in their ability to clean and to do it safely. So as far as a leader goes, it’s making sure that we understand those things so that we can, one, develop policies and procedures, and two, far more importantly, train staff accordingly.
Q: How do you manage continuous education and does that include training? Do you do competency assessments so that you're sure that not only do they know what the practice ought to be, but that they're actually following that?
Ben Kenyon: We just finished competencies for all our OR staff and it's something we're rolling out across our whole department. We do a lot of direct observations of room cleanings to make sure that they're following the right procedure and doing it the way that we taught. We do cart checks quite often to make sure the chemical is at the right level and dosage. That way you don't have things sloshing around in cleaning carts. We also do room inspections frequently after the fact to make sure that things are being followed through the way that we teach them. And then we do a lot of huddles with people, especially if there's something new on the horizon. We review policies like the right PPE needed for the rooms, the cleaning procedure, and have found huddles to be the quickest way to implement change. We have staff meetings, but if there's something pressing, then we go with the huddles for each shift.
Q: Hospital acquired infections not only impact patient health, but also add substantial financial burdens to healthcare systems. Would you discuss some cost-effective strategies you've implemented to reduce HAIs while maintaining budget constraints?
Ben Kenyon: One approach is cross-training. We have some staff that are primarily doing patient rooms, but we do have them cross-trained to work in the ED or to work in the OR if needed. And we have other staff that predominantly do office areas, but they understand how to clean a patient room if needed. The biggest thing I think that we're doing locally that probably goes a long way is we're part of the Leapfrog program and we're constantly doing hand hygiene compliance. It’s cost-effective because you're just buying soap and encouraging people to do hand hygiene the right way. But there's audits being done and once a month we do a tally of all the dispensers and patient carriers to make sure that they have the right chemical and that they operate the correct way. So that's the biggest initiative we have going right now.
Q: How do you know what you're doing is impacting HAIs?
Ben Kenyon: Our EVS department is part of the Infection Prevention Committee, so we get the reports quite often if there's an outbreak. We're quite aware of when there's a certain uptick in C. diff for example. And Infection Prevention works with us closely if that happens. And we are able to monitor it in detail because of that relationship we have with IP. In the OR, we're also doing ATP testing on a weekly basis.
Q: To summarize what we’ve discussed, what would you say is the top priority and top challenge you're facing as an EVS department?
Ben Kenyon: The top priority right now is turnover times, but making sure that it's not coming at the expense of quality. Sometimes staff get so worried about turnover time, and it's not really about the timing. It’s important, but I have to help the team understand that we want to be quick, we want to be effective, but we also want to have quality work. The biggest challenge certainly is staffing. You hear about it all the time, everywhere, but it's because it's true. You put all this time and effort into training, and then they just disappear, and then you have to start over, and then they disappear. It’s a constant battle. We have all these aspirations as a department, but sometimes you just don't have the staffing. There's many days that I'm cleaning rooms by myself just because of various illnesses in the department, people not being there. But I'm fortunate to have a good team on second shift. We have a small amount of people, but they do a whole lot of work, so I'm thankful for that.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you've ever received and who gave it to you?
Ben Kenyon: The best piece of advice I ever had was from a friend of mine. There was a period where I was pretty stressed because I was getting pushback on wanting to do things differently. It wasn't wrong, it was just different. And the old guard didn't really like that, so they were pushing back at it. I was with my team and my friend just happened to be visiting and he interrupted my meeting, pulled me out of it, and he said, “How are you doing?” I said, “I'm fine, I'm good.” He goes, “No, really, how are you?” And I said, “I'm good. Why?” He goes, "You're not smiling. Keep smiling, because they need you to smile.” And I don't think a day goes by that that doesn't pop into my head.
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