A Clean Slate: Fostering Collaboration between Pharmacy Services and Environmental Services

By: Chantel Parson, RPhT

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“Did they even clean in here?” This is a question commonly heard not just in the sterile compounding area, but in all areas of the pharmacy. Upon hearing this question on several occasions, I was prompted to create some sort of understanding of the relationship that pharmacy staff should have with our fellow environmental services workers. I wanted to let staff know about the efforts of collaboration that we have been working on at the Royal Alexandra Hospital with environmental services to meet NAPRA guidelines and increase patient medication safety.

Chantel won first place for her poster presentation at the 29th Annual Alberta Pharmacy Technician Conference.

Thus, I created this poster project for the 2019 PTSA conference about the successes and trials we’ve had from implementing this environmental services training program. Our sterile compounding supervisor and I were starting literally from a clean slate – we had no background on how to train these workers except the newer documents available from the Technical Practice Leaders, as well as environmental services’ own pharmacy cleaning training document. Upon discussing with their manager, they too had not been aware of the required guidelines that their staff needed to meet in regards to proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand washing in the pharmacy sterile areas.

As per NAPRA guidelines, pharmacy staff is responsible for ensuring the proper training of cleaning personnel in regards to proper hand washing, Avagard™ usage, donning and doffing PPE. We agreed that environmental services workers need not to be trained how to clean, but what products they should be using to clean in the sterile areas and awareness of the sterile environment that they’re cleaning.

Finally after much discussion, the first training days for our main pharmacy sterile area cleaners came upon me. I was pretty nervous – I haven’t built a relationship with any of these workers and they’ve been working in the field for much longer than me, some 20-30 years as cleaners. I was ready for any push back or resistance to this new training program, especially coming from a “youngin’ ” like me.

To my surprise (and delight!), they were very accommodating to the training. Some commented that it was nice to review the standards again to make sure that they were doing their work properly. Some said that it was nice to learn something new after a long time of doing the same thing. Some merely said they really liked using the sterile gloves better than the non-sterile blue gloves. Overall, it seemed to be a pleasant experience for all of us.

Through a few more training sessions, we were able to tweak the training continually to suit the understanding of the cleaners. We found when we emphasized their impact on patient safety, they had more of a positive grasp of why we were training this way, rather than it just being like extra work for them. However, there were still some bumps along the road – some fell back into their old habits, sometimes we would see some untrained casual staff come in, some would forget to document properly, etc. It makes me realize that this will be an ongoing and growing relationship between both services since it is still so new.

From this experience, I have gained many insights on the importance of educating and fostering relationships with other personnel that enter into the pharmacy. I feel it is important to take some ownership as a pharmacy technician to ensure that our whole environment is clean, not just the part we work with. Communication and creating understanding is key to making these changes succeed in our daily work environments. I’m glad that through this project, I was pushed outside of my bubble and was able to make more work relationships along the way.

About the Author

Chantel started as a community pharmacy assistant in 2010. She became a registered pharmacy technician with the Alberta College of Pharmacy in 2013. Currently, she practices as one of the aseptic leads at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, AB.