In 2019, when Kevin Edwards, an IEHA-master certified environmental services (EVS) executive, first arrived at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia, he found
a facility in trouble. A lack of training, purpose, and attention to detail among the EVS staff led to the hospital being ranked No. 55 in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system for
“Chemicals were not being used properly, and the housekeepers really didn’t know their role,” Edwards said. As the chief of environmental management services (EMS), Edwards knew things had to change. He called Mike Patterson, executive director of IEHA, a division of ISSA that focuses on the healthcare and hospitality sectors of the cleaning industry. “Mike was very instrumental in
letting us know what our problems were and what we needed to do to correct them,” Edwards said.
One of those problems was the assumption that everyone knew proper cleaning protocols and was working to the same standard.
“Everybody cleaned differently,” Edwards said. “The VA doesn’t have a set way everybody should clean, but IEHA gathered us in that direction.”
Certification brings consistency
Edwards turned to IEHA training to help his team set cleaning protocols and develop consistent cleaning practices. After completing the training, 10 supervisors became IEHA-certified executive
housekeepers and 40 staff members became IEHA-certified frontline supervisors.
Over the course of nearly four years, the Martinsburg VA Medical Center went from No. 55 to No. 1 in cleanliness among all VA facilities in its category throughout the nation. “Everybody took
pride in what they wanted to do, so now we are all jumping up and down that we’re No. 1,” Edwards said. As its next accomplishment, the team has its sights set on being ranked No. 1 in cleanliness of all VA facilities overall, regardless of size.
The accomplishments of Edwards and his team are known throughout the hospital. “The medical center director and associate director are giving us accolades for what we did, but they were very
instrumental in giving us the support and the funds to get it done,” Edwards said, noting that big changes like these take time, as well as buy-in. “It will not happen overnight,” he said.
A good reputation travels
As the reputation of Edward’s team spread outside of their hospital, other VA EMS supervisors have begun to reach out for advice on meeting their cleaning goals. “I recommended the IEHA certification and the training for the housekeepers,” Edwards said. “If you train and motivate your people, if your leaders know what to do and they can properly train the housekeepers, you can go to No. 1—all of us can.”
As impressive as a top ranking is, Edwards believes it’s just an outward symbol of what’s truly important in the cleaning and healthcare industries—quality of service for the patients. “I’m recommending that we all get this certification because it makes a difference for our vets,” he said. “The vets that served our country deserve to have five-star cleanliness throughout the VA.”
Learn more by watching the video below.