Faces of the Frontlines: Environmental service technician plays crucial role in patient health, safety
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In a world filled with doctors, nurses and administrators, sometimes it’s easy to look past employees like Brenda Kent, who works as an environmental services technician at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs.
“I’ve done this job all my life,” Kent said. “I think that people think that we don’t matter and that we’re not important just because we clean. I think we’re very important everywhere, especially the hospital.”
Kent grew up in Craig and has been in the housekeeping industry since age 18. She worked at the hospital in Steamboat Springs from 1999 to 2007 and returned last year. She cleans the emergency department and patient care unit.
“Our environmental services team plays a crucial role in the health and safety of our patients every single day and certainly during times of a pandemic,” said Eli Nykamp, director of operations at the local hospital. “The environmental services staff are professionals who are at the frontline of our infection prevention efforts.”
These days, in a world that has been turned upside down due to the novel coronavirus, Kent’s department has taken on an even greater importance.
“When I first heard about COVID-19, I was scared and horrified, because we didn’t know anything about it,” Kent said. “I told myself if I had to do a terminal clean that I would probably quit, but now, we wear the proper PPE (personal protection equipment) and follow a procedure to make sure we’re totally safe.”
Kent said the already stringent cleaning and safety procedures have heightened as the highly contagious coronavirus has swept across the country.
“The most fear is me catching it, but I know that I won’t catch it here,” Kent said. “I wear my mask outside of here, and I don’t go anywhere. I don’t want to bring anything into the hospital and spread it to my co-workers either. I’m making sure that I’m pretty careful myself.”
A series of profiles of the people who serve on the frontlines in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kent said she has not seen her mom, who lives in Grand Junction and is on dialysis, since early March.
“It’s really hard for me, because I can’t go and see her,” Kent said. “The last time was the beginning of March, and I couldn’t even give her a hug, because I was just afraid. She just goes from her dialysis to home, and that’s it.”
Kent’s goal is to make sure that when a patient comes into the hospital they are not exposed to anything that would make their condition worse. That means sanitizing everything, so there is no chance for infections and no chance that a virus can spread.
“It’s an important job,” Kent said. “I’ve always felt pride in my job, no matter what I do, I’ve always felt proud.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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Sheila Symons’ son got COVID-19 around Labor Day. He has since missed about five weeks of school, spent five days at Children’s Hospital in Aurora and has seen more doctors than an 11-year-old child should.