High pressure cleaning – why the healthcare sector is struggling to find cleaning staff

Cleaners in the global healthcare sector are facing increasing pressures, post-COVID. Better training may be the answer.

New regulations and standards brought in across the globe to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have made life increasingly difficult for cleaners working in healthcare, according to a report in the European Cleaning Journal.

Firms are finding it difficult to recruit new staff, leading to an increased workload being carried by a diminished workforce, compounding the stress on workers. A short timeframe to complete work, coupled with a lack of appropriate tools or guidance also adds pressure. The fact that healthcare settings can be emotionally challenging environments doesn’t help. 

There is also an assumption that cleaners can move across to healthcare from different industries, but this ignores the specialised knowledge and training required by the healthcare facilities. Healthcare cleaning staff need to be able to adapt to a range of different environments, each of which has unique challenges. 

ISSA senior director Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner says there is an urgent need for increased training opportunities that would help create less stressful and more welcoming workplaces for cleaning staff. He highlights the InterClean Healthcare Cleaning Forum being held in Amsterdam on 16 May 2024 as a step in the right direction.

“There is a critical need to hold forums like this one in every country to improve the crucial field of healthcare environmental hygiene as part of infection control in hospitals, nursing homes, and long term-care facilities,” Macgregor-Skinner says.

The programme will feature keynote speeches from Professor Didier Pittet (University of Geneva Hospitals, Switzerland), Martin Kiernan (Richard Wells Research Centre, United Kingdom), Edmée Bowles (Radboudumc, the Netherlands) and Brett Mitchell( (Avondale University, Australia). There will also be breakout sessions.

“Hospitals and the cleaning industry need to do better and focus on the intersection of environmental cleaning, disinfection, patient safety and infection prevention and control,” Macgregor-Skinner says.

Cleaners play an essential role in hospitals and other healthcare settings, with cleaning and disinfection helping to reduce healthcare-associated infections. Multiple factors influence the effectiveness of that cleaning, including procedures, training and education, technology, and materials. Taking a holistic approach to addressing the challenges faced by cleaning firms and their staff is critical.

“We need to bring together healthcare experts, cleaning professionals, hospital managers, infection prevention specialists, facility managers, and industry leaders to identify needs and challenges and to implement cleaning protocols and procedures based on science and evidence,” Macgregor-Skinner says.

“What gets measured, gets done.”

Photo by Gil Ribeiro on Unsplash

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