A Work Life’s Journey

Published on July 6th, 2023 by Ray Vaughns Jr..

By Ray Vaughns Jr., with contributions by Mary Tharpe and Anita Adams

*Editor’s note – Ray Vaughns Jr., operations director for Environmental Services, submitted collective stories and experiences over the years from the employees on the environmental services team. He shares their stories below as a team “personal perspective.” Every day, staff from the 102-member team spread out across the hospital and clinics with one goal: to keep clean the environment where children need to heal mentally and physically and to keep infection rates down.

Today is my first day at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s hospital at Vanderbilt, and I’m so excited. I’m starting my new job as an Environmental Service Technician, and I don’t know what all is involved, but I understand that it’s a very important role. I’m standing in front of this huge hospital right next to these large red paper dolls. It’s a beautiful place, with colorful concrete and statues of children playing “Ring Around the Rosey” in front of the building. I can feel nervous excitement come all over me, which is giving me butterflies in my stomach.

I walked into the 2nd floor main entrance, and the main floor is busy with people everywhere. There are so many shapes and colors, it reminds me of Disney World. It’s hard to believe that this is a hospital and my new place of work. I’m met by my supervisor who takes me to her office area in the basement. Now it feels like work. There are these weird looking beds, large trash carts, housekeeping carts with all these cleaning products on them. As I look around, there are a lot of people all dressed in the same color uniform, which is really cool. They are all listening to one of the supervisors talk about expectations for the day. The supervisor introduces me to the team, which makes me very nervous. I hate being on the spot, but I feel welcomed by all.

I completed my first two weeks of training, and I’ve learned and seen a lot. There are so many steps, processes and procedures to remember in order to keep our infection rates down. I can see why my role is so important. The people here are amazing, and my heart goes out to all the little patients that would rather be at home playing than in here, but the staff do their best to make their stay as bearable as possible. I’ve been assigned to the oncology unit, and I’ve met so many wonderful people. They all welcomed me with open arms, well maybe not all, but the vast majority. My supervisor did teach me how to interact with hospital staff at every level following the Credo and warned me that I may not be treated the same by all. This was the first time I experienced different reactions toward me based on my position and not on who I was, but again, this was only by a few. The nursing leaders are great and want me to feel like I’m part of their team, or really, their work family.

I’m celebrating my first year of employment, and it’s been challenging at times. It all seemed so easy from the outside looking in, but I love what I do. I met the sweetest little girl, Sara. She is so cute and proud of her little bald head. She’s only 3, but so smart. We’re on first name basis now, and I can’t wait to see her each day I come to work. She perks up every time I come into her room, and she tells me about all the bows she’s going to wear when her new hair comes back. She has been here for several months now, and her parents are hopeful that she can go home soon. Her mom tells me all the time how much she appreciates what I do and how keeping her room clean helps to ensure she doesn’t catch an infection. This makes me feel good.

It’s been 10 years now, and I’ve seen so many kids come and go. I do all I can to keep every single one of them healthy by doing my part. My little friend Sara made it home those many years ago but came back a few years later. She’s gone now, and it breaks my heart. Her mom gave me a letter that Sara wrote the last time she was in our hospital, and I keep it in my locker to look at each day. It simply said, “Thank you for keeping my room clean and most of all, being my friend. You are the best, love Sara.”