SPEARFISH — Going to the doctor can be an intimidating affair, you can feel vulnerable, a little scared, and even confused about what’s going on with your body; the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not that facility is clean, that’s where the environmental services (EVS) team at Monument Health becomes critically important.

“When we do our job here, we do it with a purpose and a drive,” said wndra Walby, EVS director for Compass One Healthcare, which is the healthcare food and support service company that provides dining, transportation, laundry, and EVS services for all Monument Health facilities.

Walby oversees the EVS department for the Spearfish, Lead-Deadwood, and Sturgis hospitals, as well as all clinics and medical facilities throughout the Northern Hills.

“EVS, really honestly, it’s almost like, a spiritual job,” she said.

The housekeeping department can often times go unnoticed by people as they pass through the facilities they work in. When done properly, Walby said the cleanliness of a hospital can have a positive effect on a patient.

“Our patients see that and I think that makes them feel even more secure,” she said. “They come here for help and we want to make sure we give them the best.”

With COVID-19 sending many industries scrambling to raise housekeeping standards, Walby said it has had very little effect on her team because there has always been a specialized cleaning procedure for potential droplet infections.

“We’re just on top of it, making sure everything’s clean and the way it needs to be,” she said. “We still just wear gowns, gloves, mask, all the PPE (personal protective equipment) that we’re supposed to. Nothing’s changed there.”

One thing the EVS team has done in response to COVID has been to increase spot cleaning.

“With this COVID thing going on we’ve really done a lot of extra high-touch cleaning, and extra stuff all day long throughout the day in the evening at night,” Walby said.

Walby said she used to conduct ATP testing a couple of times a month to help ensure sanitary conditions remain constant, now she tests every room that may carry a potential COVID contamination after it’s been cleaned.

“We have a threshold of 50. If it’s over 50 we re-clean it, if it’s under 50, it’s pretty good,” she said.

ATP tests measure actively growing microorganisms by detecting adenosine triphosphate, an organic compound that generates much of the energy used by living cells during their chemical processes.

Walby said the standards and practices for cleaning and sanitation implemented by Compass One are impeccable; however, it’s her team at the Spearfish hospital and at all the facilities she oversees are what drives the success of the EVS Department.

 “They’re awesome. They really passionately care about their jobs, they care about each other, and they all have a purpose and a drive,” she said. “They’re the fun part of the visit for the patient. They laugh and they talk (To them).”

Walby said working in the EVS Department can be a way for many people, not just nurses and doctors, to experience the kind of fulfillment that can come from working directly with patients in the medical field.

“Being in EVS, I think it’s an opportunity, especially for the young people to get a little taste of reality, but in a way that humbles them and lets them see a little bit of light before they get out in the real world,” she said.

It takes a certain kind of person, Walby said, to be able to recognize the kind of effect they can have on a patient, even if they’re just there to tidy up their room.

“You’ve got to embrace those people when they come in. You’ve got to show them something special. That they are needed and that they have a safe harbor to come to everyday,” she said. “Even if it only exists for a little while, it’s that little bit of time, that little bit of window that you get to be with that patient that can change their whole perspective.”

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