Behind the Scenes: Laundry

8/15/2019  By HealthNews


The Laundry team is Dona, Margaret, Carol, and Sandy. They don't sit down on the job, so we stayed standing while I got the dirt - or lack thereof - on all things KVH Laundry.

Is your service provided just for the hospital?

D: No. We do Cle Elum. Family Medicine and Urgent Care. The courier brings the linen here - robes, gowns, pillow cases, scrubs - and we wash it and bag it up. We also do Occupational Therapy, Women's Health, and Physical Therapy. Every day, first thing, we get those off-campus linens ready for the courier to pick up.

So what time do you guys start your operations?

D: Two o'clock in the morning.

Holy Moly. (Just stop and think about that for a minute, dear reader.)

D: This is our soiled utility room, where the night crew drops all the linen that they picked up on their shift. When we get here in the morning, we sort it and put it in the bins, so it's separated. We wash all the whites together and all the colors together.

M: And then we deliver the clean linen around the hospital, early in the morning, before OR starts, by 5 or 5:30. 

So it's 9:30 a.m. right now, and you've already had a pretty full day.

(Looking at a tracking sheet where the team records the number of loads processed per shift. The smaller washer takes 55 pounds, the larger takes 140.)

Pounds of laundry processed at KVH
2017: 361K | 2018: 359K | 2019 YTD: 216.5K

D: Today I'll do eleven loads. We deliver linens, and when we're running out of pillow cases, sheets, blankets, whatever, we order more through the Materials Department.

We rotate pulling and folding, because that's hard work. Loading and pulling the washers and dryers is the hardest part of the job.

On Fridays we pick up linen from the clinics - Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, General Surgery, Orthopedics, OBGYN (Dr. Sand's practice), and Pediatrics. Then on the weekends we wash all that linen separately. And on Monday it's delivered.

So if it's on the main campus, you're doing the pickups and deliveries, and off campus it's the courier.

D: And then after that, like we're done with this interview, we'll go pick up everywhere in the hospital and separate it and put it in our washers. It'll be clean and ready to pull in the morning.

At the end of the day, we clean everything. We have drains to clean, we have dryers and filters. We do the filters every day because they could catch fire if you don't. We mop our floors, too, because this is a (designated) clean area.

Can you pretty much predict your day, except for emergencies?

D: When SOP and the OR have a lot of surgeries, we're going to be really busy the next day. Other than that, it's pretty consistent.

Do you use special settings with your washers?

M: There's five different settings. You have colored, white, soiled, flush –

What is flush?

M: When you get something new, you have to flush out the formaldehyde or starch or whatever is in it. The fifth setting is for lab coats and scope. Lab coats can't have bleach or softener because they have to maintain the integrity of the protective barrier.

Are there any misunderstandings about Laundry that you would like to correct?

D: Most folks see us when they're coming in to start work, and we're sitting outdoors. By that time, we've been here several hours on our feet, and the dryers are running. We don't have a break area in Laundry, so we come outside for some fresh air.

Well, then, we will set the record straight. You are resting from your labors.

What are the challenges of your job?

M: Getting stuff out in a timely matter when it's just so swamped.

D: And trying to make the people happy, especially if they're looking for scrubs, which we don't keep stored in Laundry.

What are the rewards of working on this team?

D: You get to work with your partner.

M: And listen to music

D: We work together, you know, and there's no bickering.

What does it take to have a great day in laundry?

D: Just having fun while you do your job. That's what it's all about.

M: Try to find the fun in anything you do.

What impact do you have on the KVH mission to provide patient care?

D: We're the ones bringing the all the clean linen that the patients can lay on. We provide sanitary linens and coats and things that staff need to do their job.

I'm thinking about what it would be like if you were a lab tech and you didn't have a clean coat or you're trying to offer your patients a towel but they're all dirty.

D: Right. And it's not just about keeping people happy, it's about safety, too.

Thank you for all the hard work you do - most of it before we're even out of our own beds. Your teamwork is amazing.