Housekeeper for a Day – Learning about Infection Control on the Frontline

This is a guest post by Alexandra Flack, Corporate Communications Intern at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario. 

Every year in Canada 8,000 people die from a health-care associated infection. The cleanliness of a hospital environment plays a fundamental role in this statistic, as contaminated surfaces can increase the risk of infection transmission. At The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) the position responsible for environmental cleaning is a Patient Service Aide (PSA), a role that is integral to patient safety. 

This job of a PSA comes with a unique set of occupational challenges and rewards. Since environmental cleaning is a meticulous process, it requires more physical labour than one might imagine, as well as efficiency, organization and teamwork in order to keep up with the unpredictable nature of health care. The role also involves daily personal contact with patients, making PSAs an important face of patient care. 

Despite the significance of this role, it is one that is often underestimated, but SickKids is trying to change this. Through a unique, hands-on program called Housekeeper for a Day, staff from across the hospital have the opportunity to pull on a pair of scrubs and spend half a day working alongside a PSA. 

Housekeeper for a Day was introduced in 2011 and has since been recognized by Accreditation Canada as a Leading Practice. Held annually during Infection Prevention and Control week, the goal of the event is to teach staff the importance of environmental cleaning and infection prevention. The concept was developed by the hospital’s Infection Prevention and Control and Housekeeping Services departments.

Much of the event’s success can be attributed to the benefits of learning by experience. By stepping into the shoes of a PSA and actually performing the role, participants learn first-hand what it entails, walking away with a greater appreciation for the position.

SickKids welcomes all staff members to participate in the event on a first-come, first-served basis. Upon arrival, participants are paired up with a PSA, before embarking on their personal training session. Throughout the day they learn proper cleaning techniques, what areas in the rooms are of high risk, and what products and equipment are used and why.

To wrap up, the PSAs and participants debrief over a lunch, where they reflect upon their experience and discuss their learnings. Participants share what surprised them most about the job, which allows them to think critically about how their initial expectations of environmental cleaning shifted after immersing themselves in the position. 

A common reflection among participants is surprise over how physical the role is, as objects need to be moved and lifted and the PSAs are in constant motion throughout the day. Many are surprised at how scientific the cleaning process is, from the ceilings to the walls, there is a specific technique to cleaning everything. 

By actively carrying out the duties of a PSA, participants gain a deeper understanding of the role compared to someone explaining it to them verbally. What really strikes many of the participants is just how dedicated and connected PSAs are to the patients that they serve, as they are familiar faces that interact with them on a daily basis. This program allows staff to witness directly the active role of a PSA in delivering positive, family-centered care experiences. 

fter participating in the Housekeeper for a Day initiative, the hope is that the participants have a clear understanding of how the environment can play a role in the transmission of germs and, in turn, appreciate the integral role of a PSA.

If you are interested in learning more about the Housekeeper for a Day event please contact Laurie Streitenberger, Senior Manager, Infection Prevention & Control, The Hospital for Sick Children at

Ann WatkinsComment