Health care environmental professionals met in Dallas, Texas, from July 31 to August 2, 2023, at the AHE Exchange Conference & Solution Center. Infection Control Today® asked Rock Jensen, AHE advisory board chair and administrative director of support services for Yuma Regional Medical Center in Arizona, about AHE’s areas of emphasis for leadership in environmental services (EVS).
The 2023 AHE Exchange Conference in Dallas, Texas, had several important areas of focus for EVS leadership, but certainly a recurring theme involved infection prevention and the essential nature of keeping emerging pathogens and microorganisms from gaining a foothold in our health care institutions and facilities. For example, significant time was allotted to Lynne M. Sehulster, PhD, M(ASCP), CIMP; and Matthew J. Arduino, DrPH, MS, FSHEA, M(ASCP), who discussed infection prevention guidelines and principles that form the foundation of EVS. They also spent time reviewing the CDC’s 20th anniversary of those guidelines and where we are today. Then they looked forward at emerging challenges in today’s environment.
Rodney Rohde, PhD, SV, SM, MB(ASCP), FACSc, professor and chair of the Clinical Laboratory Science Program at Texas State University, reviewed in depth one of the biggest challenges in environmental infection prevention, that of the recontamination and regrowth of pathogens on surfaces. One of the aspects on which he focused was recent advances in disinfection chemistries that include continuously active disinfectants that kill microbes, providing additional protection against retransmission of pathogens.
CDC representatives Koo-Whang Chung, MPH, a health scientist; and Janet Glowicz, PhD, MPH, RN, an infection preventionist (IP) in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, discussed the importance of communication between EVS management and staff concerning infection prevention. Developing a solid, sustained relationship between EVS and IP is critical during routine and emergency situations. They provided key resources and recommendations to aid EVS managers in developing and maintaining procedures and protocols.
Several learning labs addressed evolving technology as a way for EVS leaders to drive enhanced results in their health care settings. One example was the utilization of electrolyzed water, a nontoxic, sustainable solution and option for health care environments offering a safer, more powerful alternative to disinfecting. Daniel Lawson, cofounder and president of business affairs for Viking Pure Solutions in Port Orange, Florida, demonstrated how the US Environmental Protection Agency– registered electrolyzed water technology is made, its efficacy of solutions, and its safety in the environment.
AHE, at the Exchange Conference and in ongoing strategic planning, has focused on how to ensure EVS does not lose relevancy in the industry. During the COVID-19 years, EVS was often looked to as a critical partner in ensuring a safe, healing environment for patients and staff. With the waning of COVID-19, AHE is focused on helping EVS leaders maintain the momentum and expertise they acquired during the pandemic to help drive best practices for reducing bioburden in the health care setting.
EVS leaders and IPs are critical partners in driving these best practices. Through their partnership, both teams can identify the science needed to reach positive outcomes and, in a real sense, identify real-life experiences of what works in the health care setting for the teams that implement the measures to eradicate the pathogens in the environment.
Finally, there was a focus at the AHE Exchange Conference on new EVS leadership. More than half of the attendees at the conference were there for the first time. In 2022, it was just less than half of the attendees. A strategic imperative AHE has been focused on is where the next EVS leaders are coming from. There are many leaders in AHE who have been the backbone of the industry for decades. As they begin to age, we have been thrilled to see these new leaders emerging. In fact, we have established a committee in AHE specifically for new EVS leaders to engage and to identify pathways they see as critical. AHE has laid significant groundwork for them over the years to use the provided tools and certifications and to drive the industry to higher levels. Although we pause occasionally to look at where we have been, the windshield is a much larger view of where we are going. We believe AHE is in good hands with the emerging leaders who are beginning to step up in continuing to provide the EVS industry with continued insight, education, and evidence-based results that will make our hospitals safe for patients and staff for decades to come.
1. AHE Exchange Conference & Solution Center. AHE. Accessed August 28, 2023. https://www.ahe.org/ ahe-exchange-conference