ROANOKE, Va. — The biggest problem with off-site laundries, or large central laundries, is the fact that they are so far removed from patient care. It is much easier to remember the patients when you work in the hospital every day.
Healthcare workers are a special type of people who put the needs of their patients ahead of their own needs. When major weather emergencies hit your area, the dedicated workers find a way to get to work so that the patients get the care they need.
So, does that dedication continue when the laundry is off-site or many miles from the facility delivering the healthcare services? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. The key is in how the employees are taught to think of their jobs.
It is a simple fact that most hospitals will be unable to function without clean linen. Clean laundry is very unappreciated until it is no longer available.
Employees need to be educated about the very vital role they play in delivering good quality healthcare. If they do their job properly and on a timely basis, then the doctors and the nurses can do their jobs and provide excellent healthcare to their patients. Education is needed to train the employees that when the radio says only essential personnel should be out on the roads, that statement includes them. The hospital cannot do its job unless they do their job.
I can remember a particularly bad weather forecast that had my employees very concerned. The snow was set to fall in record amounts. Many were concerned that they would not be able to get to work the next day. So, a group of them asked for permission to sleep in the employee lounge and break areas that night. They understood that the large laundry trucks could operate on the roads even if their cars could not.
Naturally we allowed them to stay and arranged for them to have a pizza party that night. The snowfall was worse than expected, but the laundry still got processed and delivered.
Those employees understood that their job was more than sorting soiled linen or ironing sheets. They were a critical part of providing healthcare to their community.
Another challenge was that it was always difficult to take a system-wide inventory. Counting linen is never a fun job. We developed a system that allowed us to count the linen in a small hospital, under 200 beds, in under two hours. We also had an 800-bed hospital in our system.
We designed inventory day to count the smaller hospitals first and then count the large hospital after the laundry closed. We did the inventory using laundry help only. This was by design because it got the laundry workers into the hospital and in touch with patient care. Because we greatly expanded the crew, we were still able to complete the inventory in two hours. The educational benefit involving the laundry was well worth the additional hours we used to complete the inventory.
I have often taken laundry employees on a tour of various departments so they could see for themselves how their products were used. To develop a dedicated crew that understands their part in the provision of healthcare in their community requires education and management that sets the proper example.
You must demonstrate by your behavior your commitment to providing consistent and quality healthcare linen service. If you are not willing to show by your actions that you believe they are an essential part of the healthcare delivery system, they will not believe your words.
Your actions must match your words.