There is a lot of work that goes in to keeping a hospital clean, which is why each year we celebrate Environmental Services Week. They are the team behind keeping areas germ-free and tidy—a task even more vital the past few years. We spoke to Kendel, an Environmental Service Worker (ESW) at a rural acute care centre in the middle of Saskatchewan, to tell us what work in her area has been like.

Being in the field of Environmental Services for six years, Kendel has seen the field evolve from times pre-COVID, through a full pandemic, to relaxing restrictions and moving to a new normal. One thing has always been clear: cleanliness matters. Kendel says, “The room being clean is a top priority of a hospital stay, that and the food.” Which is why she approaches each day with a determination to make people feel better by giving them a clean environment.

In addition to keeping the hospital sparkling clean, Kendel also spends her time interacting with patients and families. Talking with the residents and making them feel comfortable is the best part of Kendel’s day. She recalls an instance where she entered a room and gave a sunny “Good morning,” and it nearly brought a resident to tears. They told Kendel that they really needed that, something as simple as a smile had brightened their day.

The pandemic is tough and exhausting for all our ESWs. There was a lot of additional responsibility put onto their shoulders to combat COVID within the hospital settings. Duties were increased and sanitization was a indispensable key to combating the pandemic. Enhanced cleaning is still in full force at our acute care centres and our ESWs are getting tired. Kendel tells us most workers are at their breaking point. As nurses and continuing care assistants get busier, the team all shifts. It was ESWs like Kendel bringing patients water or a blanket. As short staffing continues to impact every department, ESWs are stepping up to support every team within their facility. And while Kendel tells us working in Environmental Services is an incredibly fulfilling job, she says working short staffed for so long is draining workers.

If you enter a long-term care facility or acute care centre this week, make sure you give a loud “Thank you,” to all the Environmental Service Workers. They work endlessly to ensure that all facilities around the province are kept clean and safe, and for that we owe them our gratitude.

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