AHE Director of Education Shares Insights into New EVS Training Program

June 25, 2024

Environmental Services (EVS) teams are imperative to the day-to-day functions of a hospital. Therefore, training and education of EVS teams should be of utmost importance. Sometimes it seems like the industry has forgotten about this extremely important department, yet there are resources out there for getting these teams in one’s organization up to snuff.

One such resource is Skill.Set.Go. a skills-driven training subscription designed for EVS teams. Powered by a team of experienced environmental service leaders and state-of-the-art designers, supported by American Hospital Association (AHA) and led by the Association for the Health Care Environment (AHE), Skill.Set.Go. is a new resource for training, transforming, and retaining EVS teams.

To get more information on this new training series, Healthcare Purchasing News spoke with Monika Berrier, EdD, PMP, director, AHE Education. Berrier works at the Association for the Health Care Environment of the American Hospital Association. This non-profit organization makes every effort to establish and maintain care environments free of environmental surface contamination and support safety, service, and efficient and effective operations. As a director of education at AHE, Berrier manages a team of education specialists and instructional designers who develop and deliver in-person and virtual educational offerings, including publications, certifications, workshops, conferences, and on-demand content delivery. She also leads the delivery of the AHE's training through the learning management system (LMS). Before joining AHE, Berrier was part of the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE), also part of the AHA, working as an instructional design manager, managing ASHE’s extensive portfolio of in-person and virtual offerings similar to AHE’s. Berrier originally started her career in graphic design. She worked on large brands designing catalogs and books for companies like Staples, Kohl’s, True Value, and McGraw-Hills. She always worked as a designer and trainer, eventually leading to her career switch to instructional design and education.

Berrier holds a Doctor of Education (EdD) degree and a Master of Science in Educational Media Design and Technology. Both degrees significantly strengthened Berrier’s ability to deliver education strategy and helped her become a visionary leader in various areas of education. She continues to search for new ways to provide education to adult learners and constantly seeks new technologies to improve learner engagement.

Let’s start with a 40,000-foot view. Why are environmental services important to hospital systems? And why do we need to educate these folks?

The perspective of EVS technicians is that their role is to come in, clean, and remove trash. What we’re really trying to change is the notion that you they are the first line of defense against pathogens Individuals who work in healthcare settings need to know how to prevent infection with detailed knowledge of how bacteria and viruses thrive and exist in the environment, and that is driven by the knowledge rather than what we see. For example, cleaning and disinfection—using different agents for different areas is driven by the knowledge of the chemicals they use and their reaction. Essentially, what the bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms respond to in order to properly clean and disinfect the areas—areas like patient rooms, hallways or OR, you really need to have that knowledge to make sure that the area is thoroughly clean of all microorganisms that could be left behind before the next patient gets that room.

Somebody who is skilled in this particular job is really an environmental technician vs.  a housekeeping because of that extra level of knowledge that EVS techs need to make sure that the places that they leave behind are really cleaned and disinfected and are free of any microbial organisms.

And why is education important? It's important for technicians to know how to properly treat microorganisms and how to not transfer pathogens back to the clean areas from the dirty areas. It is also important for managers, supervisors, and directors to realize how important their job is. And then invest in training technicians and themselves [managers, directors, supervisors] to have a certain level of knowledge. CEOs of organizations should also be aware of their training needs and consider investing in training to bring their staff to the right level of education.

Can you tell us a little bit about the training subscription program?

Managers, directors, and supervisors realize the need to educate their team. They need to stay compliant, and technicians need to be trained. We created the subscription model for Skill.Set.Go. to help with that training It gives the supervisors the ability to control training of the teams. They can buy one subscription that comes with two free seats (additional seats are also available for purchase).

For example, if I have a team of 10, and I have two technicians to clean the floor and two that are brand new coming up, I can, as a supervisor of the team, add them to subscription and preview all the training because I do have those two [seats] free. It was designed to come with those [seats], so then the managers can preview what their technicians will be accessing as far as content. And then they have the ability to purchase additional seats and the ability to use the seats within the year. And then, they also not only have access to a dashboard where they can assign the training to technicians, but they can also upload the entire team in one click and run reports on their training progress.

It seems like the subscription model is a new concept for the industry. Is this accurate?

Yes, I agree with that. I also want to point out that most training is pushed onto the supervisors and managers of these teams, which lowers the overall team productivity because they need to spend time training. Having this subscription that is based on micro learning and very small bites allows the team to do the training in between tasks. For example, they can take 10 minutes at lunch and complete some modules. Managers don’t have to take people off the floor. Our model is making it accessible via an online portal that is available on the go. Our model also eases up the time for the managers and supervisors side who would have had to train their team while, they have many more responsibilities than to just teach the basics to their team.

How can managers or supervisors get c-suite or leadership support for EVS training?

It is important to invest in a training program like this and education for your staff because patient safety start with the clean space. I think of EVS almost as unsung heroes. They are essential to patient care, but I don't think we really focus on their needs for education and growing their careers in the hospital system enough. It comes down to changing the mind of leadership. Leadership really needs to realize that they have to become a learning organization and that every department participates and contributes to patient safety. It can start with simple moves like changing the titles of the housekeeping and janitorial department to EVS and investing in training the EVS teams.

This department is usually not recognized as doing more than just cleaning. It needs to be understood that EVS team prevents infection; they really clean and disinfect so the next patient can enter into the room free of pathogens.

Overall, I think the c-suite and all the leaders of healthcare organizations need to adapt the concept of a learning organization where every department needs learning every day. Departments need to have that investment in training because it is going to improve patient care. Well-trained staff is going to increase customer satisfaction rates and if you have happy customers in your organization then you are going to have a successful business.

About the Author

Janette Wider | Editor-in-Chief

Janette Wider is Editor-in-Chief for Healthcare Purchasing News.