The Role of the Clinical Environment of Care in Preventing Healthcare-Associated Infections

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog

Guest Author: J. Hudson Garrett Jr., PhD, MSN, MPH, FNP, PLNC, CSRN, CHESP, VA-BC, FACDONA
Industry Liaison, Board of Directors
Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE),
A Personal Membership Group of the American Hospital Association

Today, I’m here at CDC with the Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE) to talk with CDC about critical issues around environmental infection control. In today’s hospitals and healthcare settings, environmental service professionals play an increasingly integral role in maintaining a safe environment for patients — and for the people who visit and work there. We have always relied on the ability to have effective reprocessing and clean surfaces in the environment of care; unfortunately, today this a growing challenge as we are faced with organisms that are difficult to kill and impossible to treat. As such, this makes environmental cleaning more and more important for the safety of our patients.

In fact, recent scientific evidence shows that the clinical environment of care can serve as a reservoir for growth of pathogens and even more often becomes transiently contaminated, facilitating the spread of pathogens. While hand hygiene remains the most important infection prevention and control measure, the role of the care environment in preventing the transmission of harmful pathogens is becoming increasingly clear. Germs such as Clostridium difficile, hepatitis B virus, methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and emerging threats such as Ebola virus cannot thrive when we have taken proper steps to remove them from the environment. Through training, education, process improvement, and by employing the latest in evidence-based practices cleaning and disinfection practices, environmental services teams can ensure the environment is safe for patients and not conducive to the spread of these dangerous pathogens.

Resources are available to help facilities in targeting and sustaining zero healthcare-associated infections. CDC’s Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities  and AHE’s Practice Guidance for Environmental Cleaning 2nd Edition both highlight the implementation of evidence-based practices.

Today’s environmental services team is asked to: collaborate across multiple disciplines, ensure maintenance of a clean and sanitary environment; manage vital functions such as disposal of regulated medical waste, handling of linens, and transporting of patients; and serve as both patient and safety advocates. Now more than ever, the environmental services team needs to be at the table with infection control and hospital leadership when it comes to providing a safe environment for clinical care.

Later this month, CDC’s Dr. Michael Bell will be presenting at the AHE annual conference where he will be discuss the changing role of clinical environmental services in caring for today’s patients. For more information about AHE, please visit

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog

10 comments on “The Role of the Clinical Environment of Care in Preventing Healthcare-Associated Infections”

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    Thanks for the article I have a question please :
    How can I disinfect environment in operating rooms and is it recommended to use high level disinfectants in OR

    Thank you Dr. Hudson Garrett, this is a great article with the important emphasis on Environmental Services as part of the care team.
    I was also fortunate enough to be present at the AHE conference and attended the presentation with Dr. Michael Bell .
    Dr. Bell as well, emphasized the critical role and impact that Environmental Service has on the care environment. Great presentation!

    Hudson, thank you for the passion you have for ES professionals and the critical role they play in reducing HAI’s. You truly are a leader in Infection Prevention that embraces the importance of partnership between multiple disciplines to obtain the best outcomes. Thanks for being so incredibly helpful to all of us in ES!

    Thanks Dr Garrett for your information and for especially referencing the CDC’s Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities and AHE’s Practice Guidance for Environmental Cleaning 2nd Edition, both of these are essential for LTC and post acute facilities. Many facilities are not sure where to turn, and forget or don’t know of these invaluable resources! Why reinvent the wheel when the CDC has done the work and have made these wonderful evidenced based reference material available to all for their use!
    You are definitely a wealth of information, and again my sincere Thanks! Sherrie

    Thanks Dr. Garrett! Your article really highlights the importance that environmental services plays in providing a clean and safe environment. And I look forward to hearing more about this topic when Dr. Bell speaks at the EXCHANGE conference.

    Thank you for highlighting the importance of environmental hygiene and the role proper cleaning and disinfection play in the prevention of infections. Microbes are ubiquitous and adaptable. Therefore, a multidiscipline approach must be implemented to control the spread of pathogens. All levels of the healthcare environment must strategically work together to ensure patient safety and wellness. I commend your efforts in integrating environmental services and clinicians to provide an all-out assault on microorganisms.

    Great information! I look forward to participating in another great year of education at AHE EXCHANGE next week!

    Thank you for your support Hudson. We definitely have a battle field in front of us now. We are the soldiers in the battle. Environmental Services are often the invisible heroes in the healthcare field. We need to show the patients, families, visitors, nursing, and others that we are here to eliminate HAIs.

    What a great article and a great tool for education. I look forward to hearing what Dr. Bell has to say regarding the changing role in the clinical setting regarding Environmental Services.
    Dr. Hudson thanks for acknowledging and emphasizing the important part that the Environmental Services Team plays in eradicating the spread of germs.

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Page last reviewed: September 14, 2015
Page last updated: September 14, 2015