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Behind the Scenes on the Front Lines: Environmental Health Services

They employ best practices to clean patient rooms and operating rooms, launder and deliver scrubs and bed linens, stepping up to the challenge posed by the novel coronavirus and pushing back their own fears to put patients first.

Environmental Health Services (EHS) staff members have always been key to the safety and cleanliness of Penn State Health – but during the past year, they have felt the weight of their task more keenly as all eyes are on curbing the spread of COVID-19.

While some of their work protocols have changed, team members say their focus remains the same – the patients.

“I love my patients,” said Dianne Finucane, an EHS associate at Holy Spirit Medical Center. “It’s been so hard for them not to be able to have visitors during COVID. They don’t get to see their families or have anyone hold their hand. I greet them when I come into their rooms, and I try to be their friend.”

What are the ways Environmental Health Services has contributed during COVID that most Penn State Health employees aren’t aware of?

“We helped set up the COVID-19 patient rooms. In the beginning, we weren’t allowed to clean them, but we made sure the nurses and aides had all the supplies and cleaners they needed to do it, and we showed them how.” ~ Marissa Groff-Magyar, utility worker, Hershey Medical Center

What has been the biggest challenge your department faced during COVID?

“Having enough staff for the workload has been challenging, and it seems there has been more turnover than usual.” – Dianne Finucane, Holy Spirit Medical Center

“Cleaning everything with a mask on every day for the past year has been difficult.” ~ Marisol Rosa, EHS associate, St. Joseph Medical Center

What qualities best describe your co-workers?

“Dedicated. Problem-solvers. We’ve bonded as a team, recognizing what we needed to do and coming up with solutions together to get the job done.” ~ Marissa Groff-Magyar, Hershey Medical Center

What about your department are you most proud of?

“I’m proud of all the training we received. I used to be fearful of going into rooms, especially where there was a COVID-positive patient, but they taught us how to stay safe.” ~ Marisol Rosa, St. Joseph Medical Center

What was the biggest thing that changed for you during the pandemic?

“My job got much more stressful. At first, I had a lot of anxiety because I didn’t want to bring the virus home to my family. As time went on, I felt more confident. We wear our PPE and change our clothes a lot.” ~ Dianne Finucane, EHS attendant, Holy Spirit Medical Center

“It was hard being told we couldn’t clean the COVID patient rooms at first. I wanted to help,” ~ Marissa Groff-Magyar, Hershey Medical Center

What is one fact about your department that you wish everyone at Penn State Health knew?

“We are so appreciative of the way everyone has noticed our work and thanked us. I’m not a doctor or a nurse, but I take my job just as seriously, and it’s so nice to hear that someone notices.”  ~ Dianne Finucane, Holy Spirit Medical Center

“We enjoy cleaning, and we believe if everything is clean, the patient has a better chance of getting well faster.” ~ Marisol Rosa, St. Joseph Medical Center

Marisol Rosa, an environmental services associate with St. Joseph Medical Center, holds a long-handled duster and dusts a painting. She is wearing a smock, a lanyard with a nametag and a facemask. Behind her is a cleaning supplies cart.

Marisol Rosa, an Environmental Health Services associate with St. Joseph Medical Center, dusts a painting in the Medical Office Building.

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