Work with purpose

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

It’s been 10 years since I began working at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. I remember vividly my first day of work as an environmental services technician, unaware of all that the job would entail. I recall standing in the front of the hospital, a huge building next to large red paper dolls, and thinking it is such a beautiful place. I admired the statue in the front of the building of children playing “Ring around the Rosie.”

I learned quickly that inside was just as beautiful with so many bright shapes and colors. More importantly, I learned how many people at Monroe Carell play vital roles in taking care of children. It takes a village. We are all part of the health care team.

The people here are all amazing. My heart goes out to all the little patients who would rather be home playing than in the hospital, but I know the staff does its very best to make the stay bearable.

Through my work over the years, I’ve met so many children who serve as reminders that our work in the Environmental Services Department is important. Every day, staff from the 102-member team spread out across the hospital with one goal: to keep clean the environment where children need to heal mentally and physically and to keep infection rates down. We are a unified team all dressed in the same maroon uniform with the same purpose. I love what I do.

Environmental Services handles all cleaning of every patient hospital room, ancillary, staffing and public areas and is responsible for deep cleaning the clinic floors in the Doctors’ Office Tower. We handle one-on-one communication with the patients’ family members to facilitate room cleanings. We also have floor technicians that perform the deep cleaning and maintenance of tile, rubber and carpet floors. There are many steps, procedures and processes I follow to keep infection rates down.

I carry out these tasks because I know they help patients like Sara, the sweetest little girl. I met Sara in my first year of work on the pediatric cancer unit. A 3-year-old cancer patient, she was so proud of her bald head. She captured my heart, always perking up when I entered her room, eager to tell me about all the bows she would wear when her hair grows back. She spent several months in the hospital, and I got to know her well. Her mom told me all the time how much she appreciated what I do and how keeping Sara’s room clean helped ensure she didn’t catch an infection. That always made me feel good.

One of the last times Sara was in the hospital, she wrote me a note. It reads, “Thank you for keeping my room clean, and most of all, for being my friend. You are the best. Love, Sara.”

Sara has since passed away, but I keep her note in my locker. I see it every day. And each day, I’m once again reminded that it takes all of us in health care and the community to take care of children. I do all I can to keep every single one of them healthy by doing my part. We can all do our part.