The Role of Janitorial in Preventing Healthcare-Acquired Infections

Jason Hunt
December 1, 2023

HAI, or Healthcare Acquired Infections, affects millions every year, all around the world. Stemming from poor cleaning and disinfection practices, it affects 1 in every 31 hospital patients in the United States alone, as quoted by the CDC.

To reduce and remove HAI entirely, janitorial services specializing in healthcare facility cleaning have strict regulations in check. Professional janitorial cleaning services play a pivotal role in the reduction and prevention of HAI, here’s how!

Before talking about janitorial services for healthcare facilities, it’s important to understand what HAIs are. Healthcare Acquired Infections, also known as nosocomial infections, are infections that patients acquire during their stay in a healthcare facility.

These infections can be caused by various bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, many of which are resistant to multiple antibiotics.

The most common HAIs include bloodstream infections, urinary tract infections (usually from catheters), pneumonia (often ventilator-associated), and surgical site infections. According to the World Health Organization, millions of patients are affected by HAIs worldwide each year, leading to significant morbidity and mortality.

Preventing Healthcare Acquired Infections

Janitorial services in healthcare settings go far beyond just routine cleaning. They are the first line of defense against HAIs, working tirelessly behind the scenes to create and maintain a clean, safe, and healthy environment for patients, visitors, and staff.

The primary role of janitorial services in preventing HAIs is infection control. According to the CDC, proper cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces are crucial components of effective infection prevention programs.

High-touch surfaces such as bed rails, medical equipment, door handles, and telephones can harbor harmful pathogens and contribute to the transmission of infections.

Healthcare janitorial staff are trained to follow stringent cleaning and disinfection protocols to ensure these surfaces are properly sanitized.

They use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectants that are effective against a broad spectrum of microorganisms, including multidrug-resistant organisms.

Another crucial role of janitorial services in healthcare is the proper handling and disposal of medical waste. Improper waste management can pose significant risks of HAIs, not only to patients but also to healthcare workers and the community at large.

Janitorial staff are trained to handle different types of waste, including sharps, infectious waste, and pharmaceutical waste, in accordance with local regulations and guidelines.

In addition to their cleaning duties, janitorial staff also play a role in creating a culture of cleanliness and hygiene in healthcare settings.

They serve as role models for other staff members, demonstrating the importance of hand hygiene, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and adherence to infection prevention guidelines.

people wearing hazmat suits

Not all janitorial services are the same, especially when it comes to healthcare. Cleaning in healthcare settings requires specialized knowledge and skills to ensure patient safety and prevent HAIs.

Healthcare janitors need to be familiar with various infection control principles and practices, including the use of appropriate cleaning products, correct cleaning techniques, and an understanding of contact time for disinfectants.

The Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE) offers a certification program for healthcare environmental services professionals to ensure they meet the high standards

While janitorial services are fundamentally known for their cleaning role, it’s essential to recognize that they also play a pivotal part in other aspects of infection control.

They contribute to preventing and controlling the spread of infections through their participation in infection control committees and initiatives. By offering their unique perspective, janitors can help identify potential problem areas and devise practical, effective solutions.

Collaboration and communication between janitorial staff and the rest of the healthcare team are critical for effective infection prevention and control.

By being in constant communication with clinical staff, janitors can stay informed about any potential infectious outbreaks and adapt their cleaning strategies as necessary.

Moreover, janitorial staff often act as the eyes and ears of the hospital, noticing things that busy medical staff may overlook.

They can report issues like leaky pipes, damaged surfaces, or other potential hazards that may contribute to the growth and spread of harmful pathogens.

People disinfecting a biohazard area

Janitorial services in healthcare are continually evolving with advancements in cleaning technology. From electrostatic sprayers that ensure comprehensive coverage of disinfectants to ultraviolet (UV) light systems that can kill a wide range of pathogens, these innovations enhance the effectiveness of janitorial services and contribute to the prevention of HAIs.

One such example is the use of microfiber mops and cloths, which are more effective at removing microorganisms than traditional cotton mops and cloths.

Another is the use of color-coded cleaning supplies to prevent cross-contamination between different areas of the healthcare facility.

Like any other profession, janitorial services in healthcare face several challenges. These include maintaining high levels of cleanliness in high-traffic areas, dealing with new and emerging pathogens, and managing the risk of occupational exposure to infectious diseases.

Continuous training and education are crucial to address these challenges and keep up with the latest standards and best practices in healthcare cleaning.

This also involves cultivating a culture of safety and respect, where janitorial staff feel valued for their contributions and empowered to speak up about any concerns or suggestions they may have.

Looking ahead, the role of janitorial in healthcare will continue to be essential. As the healthcare industry continues to navigate the challenges posed by emerging pathogens, antibiotic resistance, and an increasing focus on patient safety and quality of care, the demand for skilled, knowledgeable janitorial staff will only increase.

Furthermore, as more healthcare facilities recognize the importance of a clean and safe environment in improving patient satisfaction and outcomes, the role of janitorial services will continue to expand and evolve.

This includes opportunities for greater involvement in infection control committees and initiatives, as well as increased collaboration with other members of the healthcare team.

Janitorial in healthcare is an integral part of the healthcare team, with a significant role in infection prevention and control. Despite their often unseen work, their contribution to patient safety and healthcare quality is undeniable.

It’s essential to recognize and appreciate their efforts and continue investing in their training and development.

As we continue to face the challenge of HAIs, the importance of maintaining clean and safe healthcare environments cannot be overstated.

With their specialized training and unwavering commitment, janitorial services in healthcare are up to the task, playing their part in safeguarding the health of patients, staff, and the community at large.

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