By Willie Nash, Director of Environmental Services
A healthy working relationship between nursing and environmental services (EVS) staff is necessary to improve patient care and safety in your healthcare facility. If that relationship is unhealthy, it will be nearly impossible to increase your facility’s patient satisfaction scores.
Unfortunately, it’s all too common for nursing and EVS to struggle to build a thriving partnership. This can lead not only to an unpleasant work environment, but also damage the quality of patient care.
There are some simple things you can do to build a successful partnership and provide excellent patient care, but first, it’s important to understand some common challenges that you may face.
A Common Obstacle to Improving Patient Care
One reason nursing and EVS departments may have a strained relationship is that they lack an understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities.
Nurses may be frustrated that EVS team members aren’t completing tasks that they assume should be accomplished, such as moving IV poles or emptying the bedside commode. Likewise, EVS staff may feel frustrated that nurses aren’t setting them up for success so they can quickly turn rooms.
This can be especially true if the EVS department is under a contractual agreement that outlines a specific scope of work, which nursing leadership may not be aware of.
The following steps outline some key points I’ve learned as a director of environmental services that can help overcome this lack of understanding and establish a strong partnership between the nursing and EVS departments.
Set Clear Expectations
The first thing to do is set clear expectations with the CNO and other nursing leaders. Once you establish a clear expectation of service, everything else fixes itself.
To do this, schedule meetings with the CNO and all the nursing leaders. Bring your scope of work to the meeting, but first ask them what they think the EVS department should be responsible for. Then share with them what your department is contractually responsible for at the facility.
This shouldn’t be done to prove a point or show them that they’re wrong. Rather, it can serve as a tool to demonstrate that there’s a lack of understanding that needs to be overcome.
It also helps you understand what their expectations are for the EVS team, and for both departments to come to a mutual understanding and agreement with one another.
By setting clear expectations, you’re building the foundation for a mutually beneficial partnership.
Align on Your Mission and Communicate Your Goals
Aligning with each other’s mission means coming to a mutual understanding of the ultimate mission of the hospital and how the nursing and EVS departments can work together to find success. This involves communicating what your goals are and how they help achieve the ultimate mission.
When sharing your goals, always communicate the why behind them.
For example, let’s say you have a goal of turning rooms in 60 minutes. It’s helpful to tell nursing that that’s your goal, but it’s even more powerful if you communicate that a quicker turn time means a shorter wait time for patients and, therefore, improved patient satisfaction scores.
If nursing knows what your goal is and understands how it contributes to the overall mission, they’ll often do what they can to help you achieve it.
You should also be doing everything you can to help nursing achieve their goals. Remember, this is a partnership and you need to be willing to give just as much as you take. The more you help nursing succeed, the more eager they will be to help you whenever you need it.
When both departments are aligned on their mission and understand each other’s goals, improved quality of patient care and increased patient satisfaction scores are a natural byproduct.
Get Your Team Members Involved—The CCT Method
In order for your relationship with nursing to thrive, you need to get your team members involved.
To do this, I use what I call the CCT method, which stands for collaboration, communication, and teamwork. This is how I motivate my team members to have a positive working relationship with nursing.
• Collaboration — Remind your team members that they need to work together with nursing to accomplish their goals.
• Communication — Encourage your team members to proactively engage in dialogue with nursing. Simply asking nursing if there is anything they need or if there’s anything you can do better goes a long way toward building a healthy partnership.
• Teamwork — Remind your team members that everyone in the facility belongs to the same team, and that team members do everything they can to help the team win.
Using the CCT method is a great way to encourage your team to have a positive attitude not only when working with each other, but also with the nursing staff.
Sustain the Partnership
After you’ve set expectations, aligned on mission and goals, and involved your team members, the last step is to sustain the partnership.
The key here is simple: communicate. Set regular meetings with nursing leadership and review your mission and goals. Take the time to understand any challenges nursing may be facing and refresh them on your scope of work.
Building a healthy partnership between the nursing and EVS departments has a direct correlation to improved patient care and safety and higher patient satisfaction scores.