Has anyone heard the phrase, “smells like a nursing home”? Unfortunately, along with the microorganisms that cause unpleasant odors potentially dangerous virus, bacteria and mold may be present with the potential to cause the vulnerable nursing home resident population illness or much worse. Housekeeping is an essential part of maintaining a clean, safe, comfortable environment for residents—evaluate your facility’s performance in these key aspects of effective environmental services….

Housekeeping in a nursing home is an essential part of maintaining a clean, safe, comfortable environment for residents. A clean-living space contributes to the overall comfort and quality of life. It also can encourage a positive mindset by promoting a sense of safety, security, and dignity.

There are two important terms to consider when ensuring a hygienic environment, they are cleaning and disinfecting. Often the two are used synonymously but have very different functions. Both are essential for the health and safety of residents. Cleaning is wiping away dirt, debris, germs, or any other contamination from a surface. While disinfecting is the process of killing germs and other microorganisms from a surface.

The following are some key aspects to evaluate when it comes to housekeeping operations in a nursing facility:

  1. The Housekeeping staff is responsible for the scheduled cleaning and sanitizing of residents’ rooms, hallways, and common areas. This includes at a minimum dusting, vacuuming, mopping floors, wiping surfaces, and disinfecting areas to prevent the spread of germs and infections. Staff should use appropriate disinfectants and follow recommended cleaning procedures, paying particular attention to high-touch areas.
  2. Environmental services should be trained in maintaining safety standards. This includes knowledge of handing hazardous materials, proper use of cleaning equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE), and following infection control procedures.
  3. Housekeeping staff often work closely with other departments, such as nursing including the Infection Preventionist (IP), dietary, and maintenance, to facilitate a coordinated effort in maintaining a clean, safe and functional environment.
  4. There are certain situations in which combining cleaning and sanitizing may be necessary, a few include during an outbreak or for a high touch area. In these cases, it may be necessary to combine cleaning and disinfecting using things such as disinfectant wipes or sprays.
  5. In the event of an outbreak, immediate action is necessary to control and manage it. This may include implementing additional infection control measures, such as an increased cleaning and disinfecting schedule, coordinating with the facility IP, and even contacting local and state public health entities for additional guidance.
  6. Department heads or designated staff can be part of the monitoring process, which may involve visual inspections of resident rooms, common areas and facilities to ensure a high level of cleanliness. A standardized checklist can be utilized so all areas are examined, not just the highly visible ones.
  7. The facility IP may perform regular QA audits, entailing selection of random rooms or areas for detailed inspection, examining cleaning logs, and assuring adherence to cleaning protocols and infection control measures.

The importance of environmental services in a skilled nursing/long- term care setting cannot be overstated. It contributes to creating a safe, comfortable, and pleasant environment in which residents can experience the highest quality of life.

Interested in learning more strategies for robust housekeeping and infection prevention in the long term care environment? Access the on-demand session of Cleaning & Disinfection as part of the ongoing Infection Preventionists series, or register to join us live on June 27, 2023 for Hints and Helps for Housekeeping the next session in the 12-month Mission Possible: SNF Department Head Briefing series.



Written By: Nancy Casperd, BSN, RN, CHC
Clinical Consultant

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