Spring Cleaning Comes to Your Workplace

This month the Essentials of Correctional Nursing blog welcomes Gayle F. Burrow RN, BSN, MPH, CCHP-RN, Correctional Health Care Consultant from Portland, OR, to the blogging team. Gayle will share insights from her many years of jail nursing experience in a regular monthly rotation with ECN bloggers Catherine Knox and Lorry Schoenly.Spring Cleaning

With part of the country still experiencing cold temperatures, flooding and high winds, it is hard to think about spring cleaning. However, it is May and that directs our attention to getting our house in order. The big question is what about our workplace? Have you looked around your nurse’s station or clinic exam room lately? How does it look to you? How does it look when the warden or sheriff brings a tour through the medical unit? We get accustomed to our workplace and where to find the things “we” need, but what about the next shift or the new nurse? Nurses use their knowledge and skills to make a pathway to health for our patients; we should expand our viewpoint to include the workplace, by caring for ourselves and each other.

Convenient Work Environment

Some months ago Lorry published a post about the messy medication room and made the point that since medication rooms are very complex, efficiency depends on having areas organized for ease of locating, checking and storing. The set up and maintenance of a medication room can make or break the safety of delivering medications. The same can be said for other work areas, whether it is a nurse’s station, exam room, emergency room or laboratory.

Let us take a look at some important areas in your workplace:

  • Is the phone within easy reach?
  • Is the policy and procedure book/s close by or on the computer?
  • Are medication and other health related reference books nearby?
  • Are emergency phone numbers and facility contact lists posted or easily available and easy to read?
  • Is the desk area, free from clutter, with room to write?
  • Are pens, pencils, staplers, post-it notes and note pads available?
  • Are the forms you use often in files or on shelving close by?
  • Are the necessary logs, notebooks or other materials labelled and close by?
  • Is there adequate lightening for reading and writing?
  • Is the equipment in the exam room all that is needed?
  • Are instruments for procedures organized and stored in labelled cupboards?
  • Are necessary medications and other diagnostic materials available and not outdated?
  • Is the desk and chair you use ergonomically set for comfort and support.

Reality of Work Units

In the world of correctional health care, many medical units in jails, prisons and juvenile facilities are in older buildings or built as an afterthought. Nurses’ stations and exam rooms may be in a storage room or at the end of a hallway. In older buildings the floors, lighting, electrical outlets and location within the building may not be desirable. Fortunately over the last decade, more facilities have consulted with health care personnel when planning the medical area, and the results have been medical units that are located centrally to the housing units, are well lit, with wide hallways, adequate electrical outlets and cabinets. Whether, a medical unit is modern or just one room in an older facility that used to be used for something else, the space must make your work efficient and safe.

Key factors in safe and efficient workplaces are:

  • The area must be clean.
  • The area must be organized.
  • The things you need should be where you need them.
  • There must be a plan for cleaning, maintenance and stocking.

So What About Spring Cleaning

The first thing staff mention when talking about cleaning or organizing the work place, is “we do not have time to do that”, “night shift has more time than we do”, “hire someone to clean medical”. There may indeed be a custodial service that cleans the medical unit with vacuuming, dusting and emptying the garbage. Some facilities have inmate workers or porters that clean. We are not talking about vacuuming alone, we are talking about having the things necessary to do your job nearby, organized and free from clutter. The custodians or porters will not put the nursing protocol assessment forms in order or order more forms.

The National Safety Council published an article on 25 steps to a safer office. Most of the points are translatable to a medical unit. The article mentions having a clutter free environment, adjustable equipment for support, mouse placement that prevents neck and back stress and even electrical cord safety. For more about the suggestions from this organization to assist in spring cleaning just click on this hyperlink.

Quality Improvement Project

Why not make spring cleaning a quality improvement project? This approach helps you to prioritize so the project is accomplished. Use the Plan Do Study Act (PDSA) cycle for this project:

  • Plan-Schedule an agenda item at a staff meeting or shift change time to talk about your workplace. Gather ideas and draw a template or picture of the ideal work station or exam room. Collect the supplies, equipment, files, shelves etc. that may be needed to bring your workplace into alignment with the template.
  • Do-Schedule a specific time period in which to accomplish the project, make assignments and have all the supplies in place. The template shows everyone what the area should look like when cleaned and organized.
  • Study-After a few weeks gather input about what works or needs improvement. For a formal process, send out a survey. Analyze and discuss the feedback to determine the next steps in spring cleaning your workplace.
  • Act-Follow up by making adjustments to the workplace and continue the cycle if more improvements are identified. If the selected work area seems to be in good working order you can move onto another area of the medical unit.

Enjoying your workplace and having a safe and efficient place to work together is what we all desire. The workplace reflects pride in our work and correctional health care.

If you have completed spring cleaning or improvements in your workplace, share with us in the comment section below. We enjoy hearing about your accomplishments and what might assist others with plans for spring cleaning!

For more about correctional nursing, consult our book the Essentials of Correctional Nursing. Order a copy directly from the publisher or from Amazon today!

Photo credit: © Monkey Business – Fotolia.com

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