Photo of Marcellino Contreras

This EVS Week, we’re recognizing the heroes of Hospital Environmental Services.

We sat down with EVS Team Mem­bers from SFS user Kaiser Per­ma­nente South Bay Med­ical Cen­ter to talk about how they took care of each oth­er dur­ing COVID, the sim­i­lar­i­ties between EVS work­ers and fire­fight­ers, and how small tokens of appre­ci­a­tion can make a big dif­fer­ence.

Photo of Shay Craft

Shay Craft, Housekeeper Attendant

Shay had been want­i­ng to work for Kaiser for years, so when she found out they were hir­ing, she jumped at the oppor­tu­ni­ty. “I was ner­vous [dur­ing the first inter­view],” she said. “But I did pret­ty well, and then they called me back for the next one, and next thing I knew, they asked if I want­ed to work for Kaiser. I was like “‘Yes! This is my dream right here!’”

While Shay had expe­ri­ence in cus­to­di­al work, work­ing in a hos­pi­tal envi­ron­ment for the first time was an adjust­ment. 

“It was a big difference,” she said. “But I had wonderful trainers. They made me feel comfortable enough to be confident in what I had to do.”

While the ini­tial adjust­ment might have been over­whelm­ing, now that she has been with the hos­pi­tal for over eight years, noth­ing fazes her any­more. “It can be a lot,” she admits. “But I don’t real­ly think about it. When I go in, I’m pre­pared to han­dle what­ev­er comes my way.”

It helps that her team is so proac­tive about express­ing appre­ci­a­tion, Shay said. “After a real­ly busy day, to hear from a man­ag­er, a lead, even one of my cowork­ers say thank you, is a lit­tle token that can go so far. It makes me feel appre­ci­at­ed, like I’m part of a team. I’ve worked in jobs where you’d come in and bust your butt and nobody ever acknowl­edged your work. So that small effort means a lot to me.” 

Of course, the big things help, too. One of Shay’s most mem­o­rable moments occurred after  enter­ing a raf­fle dur­ing a hol­i­day par­ty. “My man­ag­er came in with this huge present wrapped in Christ­mas wrap­ping paper, and obvi­ous­ly I wasn’t going to wait for Christ­mas to see what was in it, so I opened it, and it was a Keurig! I was in heav­en, because I love cof­fee. I was like, ‘how did they know?’”

But at the end of the day, what makes her feel most empow­ered is that her team makes her feel val­ued, and respects her con­tri­bu­tions. “We have a team that we can give ideas to help make the oper­a­tions run more smooth­ly. Not that many employ­ers lis­ten to their employ­ees like that. So I love that they take our input.”

For her man­ag­er, Andrew Lopez, show­ing appre­ci­a­tion for Shay is a no-brain­er. “Shay is some­one who works wher­ev­er she is need­ed.

During the pandemic, she worked everywhere, whether it was a COVID room or not. She’s definitely a team player, and I can always rely on her when it comes to making sure the area is clean and that members are happy.”

After almost a decade work­ing in EVS at Kaiser, Shay still con­sid­ers it her dream job. “It’s an awe­some job: the ben­e­fits, hav­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty to move up if I want to, hav­ing a say in my work,” she says. “I just love the atmos­phere. Every­body helps each oth­er out. My cowork­ers make it nice for me to come to work, and my man­agers are always there if I need any­thing.”

“Plus, I work in post­par­tum with the mom­mies, so I get to see the babies,” she adds, with a smile. “That’s the ulti­mate thing: being able to see all the babies.”

Photo of Marcellino Contreras

Marcelino Contreras, EVS Lead/Acting Supervisor

Marceli­no Con­tr­eras has worked in EVS for over twen­ty years. “I start­ed in 2001, and my inter­view day was on 9/11,” he said. “I applied for this house­keep­ing posi­tion with­out know­ing what I was going to get into. But I’ve learned a lot.”

Five years ago, Marceli­no was pro­mot­ed to lead. “As EVS Lead, he is the face of our depart­ment,” said Andrew Lopez, Marcelino’s man­ag­er. “He’s very depend­able and trust­wor­thy, and I can always rely on him when I need some­thing done. He’s also a great train­er. He is ded­i­cat­ed to train­ing new hires on prop­er pro­to­cols, and ensur­ing that every­thing goes as smooth­ly as pos­si­ble.”

Train­ing is one of Marcelino’s favorite parts of his job.

“I’m always willing to train everybody the right way. [Because] It’s playing a big role for the entire hospital—not only for the hospital, but for the community, for patients who are basically living here. 

“Every day is a chal­lenge. House­keep­ing is an end­less job. There will always be some­thing dirty tomor­row for us to clean. If the hos­pi­tal was clean, we would­n’t have a job. So I always say thanks to every­one who makes it dirty” he said, with a laugh. “That’s what we’re here for. we’ll clean it up again.”

In the face of work that can some­times feel over­whelm­ing, the most impor­tant thing, Marceli­no often reminds his staff, is to keep show­ing up, and stay pos­i­tive. “I always tell peo­ple that the hard­est part in the morn­ing is to get up. When you hear your alarm, just throw your left foot out of the bed and hop out and do what you got to do. 

“We’re like firefighters, you know? We get a call, go help them out. Put out that fire. Move on to the next one. By the time you notice, you’ve worked eight hours and you can go home feeling good, because you did something good for our hospital.”

Marceli­no takes his respon­si­bil­i­ty seri­ous­ly, because Kaiser South Bay isn’t just his work­place; it’s his hos­pi­tal. “I think we’re all prob­a­bly going to be in a hos­pi­tal at some point,” he said. “Hope­ful­ly not too soon, but we might, one day. This is our hos­pi­tal. We live close by. So we want to treat it like our own home and keep it clean for them.”

The weight of his respon­si­bil­i­ty to his hos­pi­tal and com­mu­ni­ty became even more real dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. “We were see­ing peo­ple fall in front of us,” he said. “It was very trau­ma­tiz­ing. I saw three peo­ple code in one day that didn’t sur­vive. I would find our recep­tion­ist cry­ing off to the side, and I would try to tell them to keep their head up and be strong and we would fight this virus togeth­er.”

While it was one of the hard­est expe­ri­ences he’s ever faced as an EVS work­er, he also looks back with pride at how they band­ed togeth­er to take care of patients and pro­tect each oth­er.

“A lot of us looked out for each oth­er,” he said. “I have a cowork­er who want­ed to leave in 2020 because of the fear of los­ing her life or tak­ing COVID back home to her hus­band. She want­ed to retire with all her ben­e­fits, but we could only take her ben­e­fits after 15 years, [and she still had two years left]. I didn’t want her to lose those ben­e­fits. So I told her, ‘Don’t wor­ry if you don’t feel like going into these COVID rooms. I’ll go in there, and I’ll just hand you the trash out the door.’” His cowork­er made it through the pan­dem­ic, and was able to retire ear­li­er this year, with life­time ben­e­fits.

That sense of com­mu­ni­ty extend­ed to all of the teams through­out the hos­pi­tal, Marceli­no said. “Peo­ple real­ly helped each oth­er out. We had nurs­es pulling out the trash for us so that we would­n’t have to go in [the COVID rooms]. A lot of peo­ple played a big role in pro­tect­ing each oth­er.”

When he thinks back on his time as an EVS work­er, this is what stands out most to him. “We’ve had our ups and downs here in the hos­pi­tal, but there was a lot of team­work.”

Happy EVS Week! If you’d like to learn more about how we can support your team, give us a call anytime at 800–260-8665, ext. 108 or email