Competencies for Healthcare EVS employees help ensure both patient and employee safety.
Clinical leadership and healthcare administration are tasked with ensuring that their teams have the necessary skills to deliver the safest care possible to patients. While easy to frame, the reality of that statement within the context of healthcare’s day-to-day demands is incredibly challenging. Advances in medicine and technology create a culture of constant change. So how exactly do healthcare organizations keep up with this change and continue to deliver safe care to patients?
Ongoing education and validation through competencies for all elements of care delivery is the key to ensuring patient safety. One of the primary mandates of The Joint Commission is validating that competencies are being completed and documented.
“The ultimate goal is that the employee can demonstrate the required attributes to deliver safe, quality care… When determining competency requirements, consideration should be given to needs of its patient population, the types of procedures conducted, conditions or diseases treated, and the kinds of equipment it uses. Competency assessment then focuses on specific knowledge, technical skills, and abilities required to deliver safe, quality care.”
Xanitos’ Education Team is responsible for developing the core direct observation competences for our Environmental Services team members that complement our standardized policies and education programs. Compliance for competencies is also monitored by the Education Team and reported to regional and corporate leadership regularly to ensure regulatory preparedness. The team works with onsite operation teams to customize competencies when needed for unique disinfection procedures. Partnering education alongside competencies helps Xanitos’ team members achieve our mission to safely, help save lives.
Environmental Services employees are considered part of the care team and are required to complete initial and annual competencies to help ensure the care environment is safely prepared. These competencies should include different elements of the patient room, operating room, specialty area and medical equipment cleaning and disinfection. Competencies should be reevaluated anytime a policy is revised, or tools, equipment or technology associated with the scope of the task or department changes.
Improved patient experience can also occur when behavioral direct observation competencies are integrated. The Patient Experience Journal (PXJ) is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by The Beryl Institute. In a 2018 case study, a holistic approach was utilized including a pre and post e-learning module assessment, direct observation behavioral competency process and patient experience surveys.
“The behavioral competency process provided an opportunity for staff to practice embedding newly-learned skills into their every day care delivery. Through this study, we also discovered two positive unintended consequences. The first was leadership being able to see first-hand the compassionate and impactful work their teams perform daily and it was eye-opening. It provided a forum for leaders to connect, engage in open dialogue, mentor, recognize and mutually problem-solve with their staff in real-time. The second being the staff was pleased to see the proactive and visible presence of their leaders through this process.”
The benefits extend beyond the patient. Competencies can also reduce risk of employee injuries or illness. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states “in 2019, U.S. hospitals recorded 221,400 work-related injuries and illnesses, a rate of 5.5 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees. This is almost twice the rate for private industry [non-healthcare] as a whole.” Applying competencies to tasks with high risk of injury can be a proactive and collaborative opportunity to identify and fix workplace hazards before incidents occur and should find a place in all integrated injury and illness prevention programs. According to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a "’competent person’ is defined as ‘one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them’.”
Competencies should be assigned to employees based on role, scope of assignments and should be monitored for compliance. Completing competencies prior to working independently helps ensure that team members both understand the importance of and can accurately perform tasks that keep patients and the employees safe. Assigned competencies should be repeated at an identified frequency such that drift in skills does not occur. Administration should both monitor compliance of competencies from a regulatory perspective and engage in the competency process so that the entire organization realizes the positive outcomes for patients and employees.