Behind the scenes, but as essential as ever, janitorial staff are keeping the workplace environment clean for frontline healthcare workers across the country.
For professional janitorial staff, their best work is evidenced not by what people see, but what they don’t see. Few people notice the fresh liner in the trash can or the fact that there are no fingerprints on the glass door. It’s easy to overlook the fact that the bathroom sinks are clean or that the soap dispenser is full. You don’t notice the dust that’s not accumulating on the air vents. You don’t see the missing dirt tracked in by hundreds of shoes.
For cleaning teams, janitorial staff, and building service contractors, you know you’re doing your job well when people don’t see what you do. In some ways, this is unfortunate, because we all know how crucial janitorial work is to the health of the people in our buildings. You work hard, often unrecognized under normal circumstances, and right now, those circumstances are anything but ordinary.
In hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country cleaning crews are on the front lines each day. You’re ensuring that the people you serve have a safe place to come to work. You’re putting in longer hours, isolating yourselves from your family, and you aren’t sure how long this will continue.
You’re taking the time to follow additional precautions. And you’re doing more detailed work—ensuring that no door handle is missed and no phone goes unsanitized. You don’t forget to disinfect every inch of the nurses’ stations, including seatbacks, behind computer monitors, and underneath file holders. Even pens, pencils, and clipboards get regular attention.
In doctors’ offices
In doctors’ offices, computer keyboards and touchscreens get your complete focus. Desktops, bookshelves, and drawer handles are all contaminant-free because of your work.
The floors aren’t just clean. They don’t just sparkle. You’re taking care multiple times every shift to make certain that they get mopped and disinfected. And not just the high traffic spots. Every single inch of the floor from the emergency entrance to the distant corner of the cafeteria to the elevator. They’re all part of your cleaning routine.
Patients come and go, and you’re there to make sure everything and anything they’ve come in contact with is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. From bed rails to scales and from light switches to television remotes, every item in every room is clean and safe, thanks to you.
You’re wiping down the wheels on hospital beds, decontaminating light fixtures, mopping walls, scrubbing shower stalls, and toilets. And you’re using new equipment like electrostatic sprayers.
You’re cleaning isolation rooms every 20 minutes. And you clean waiting rooms and restrooms every hour. Finally, you’re offering a friendly ear and a comforting presence to patients who are separated from their families.
And like doctors, nurses, nurses aides, and healthcare professionals across the country, maybe you’re anxious. Maybe you’re nervous about being exposed to new, unknown risks. You may feel a little scared every time you clock in. But you’re showing up, day after day, cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting millions of square feet in hospitals, emergency rooms, and other healthcare facilities from coast to coast. In busy, crowded cities and in small towns, you are going above and beyond what anyone could have expected.
Janitors are finally getting the recognition they deserve
You are the forgotten frontline workers fighting the battle against a new and unpredictable threat. But you aren’t as forgotten as it may sometimes seem. Don Richards, director of operations for Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina, says the janitorial staff “are absolutely my heroes.”
“They come in here every day… to perform the sanitizing operation all over the building so that the patients can heal and the direct caregivers can operate.”
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois is grateful “for all the doctors, nurses, janitors, administrators, and all hospital workers across Illinois.”
Search engine giant, Google, used their daily Google Doodle to honor “custodial and sanitation workers keeping our hospitals and other medical institutions running during the pandemic.”
Governor Gavin Newsom of California expressed his thanks to the “unsung heroes,” stating that they are “quite literally saving lives.”
In Nashville, Tennessee, internal medicine resident Michelle Izmaylov says, “there’s no way the hospital could run” without the work the janitorial staff is doing.
And in Barcelona, hospital staff lined up to applaud the cleaning staff “who continue to perform their duties in exceptional circumstances.”
Words from frontline workers
There are so many of you working every day and every night to make sure that hospitals and healthcare facilities can operate as safely as possible. Here are just some of the janitorial and cleaning workers on the front lines of this epidemic.
At Bellevue Hospital in New York, Jhonelly Gil is on his hands and knees cleaning emergency room floors to help “keep medical staff safe from coronavirus.”
At Mass. General Hospital in Boston, Awilda Lalande and her staff work around the clock to ensure medical staff and patients are safe from coronavirus.
The Environmental Services Department at Baptist Health in Paducah, Kentucky, is working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week washing walls and disinfecting elevator buttons to ensure that every surface is and remains germ-free.
K’dzya Sibby, who works at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, wants patients at the hospital to know that she is going to “treat each patient–and each member of their family–as if they were my own.” And Jackie Clark at Novant, also in Charlotte, says that “instead of being scared, I’m more about being safe and conscious of it.” She said, “If I could help just one person keep the virus away, that’s good.”
So to you, janitors, custodians, cleaning crews, building services contractors, housekeeping staff, and everyone keeping healthcare facilities as safe and clean as ever for everyone in your building, we offer you a heartfelt thank you.
Because of you, patients recovering from COVID-19 won’t get sick again while they’re in the hospital. It’s because of you that everyone in the field of healthcare, from doctors to nurses to administrators to foodservice employees to administrative staff, can feel safe at work. It’s because of you that we can rest, knowing that you are keeping us healthy.
Thank you, janitors
You are not forgotten and not inconsequential. Your work is everything. Every one of us here at Janitorial Manager sees you, and what you do, and we thank you.