The Importance of Empathy: Stories from the Frontline

On average, environmental services (EVS) technicians spend more time in patients’ rooms than doctors or nurses. Often, finding EVS technicians approachable, patients will express concerns or fears to EVS employees that they may not express to other hospital staff. According to Servicon Healthcare Operations Manager, Wendy Torres, this is why empathy is such an essential quality for EVS workers to possess. “To be a frontline worker, you need to have soft skills,” says Torres. “You need to be someone who truly cares and is respectful of people.”

Torres went on to break down “empathy” into what she sees as the top three qualities successful EVS technicians need, including real-life examples to illustrate why.

Understanding

Torres believes successful EVS workers are able to put themselves in patients’ shoes. “Frontline employees understand patients are going through a difficult time when they are in the hospital,” she says. “Not all patients are happy; some are angry, some shout. One man even threw his tray of food at the wall, and some of it hit the nurse and me. The nurse apologized, but I said, ‘It’s Ok,’ and I cleaned it up. The man had a brain injury and had had a stroke, and he was not mentally stable. You don’t know what people are going through, so you have to be able to connect and try to understand them.”

Patience

According to Torres, patience is a virtue, one that can significantly impact the patient experience. She gives an example: “When I first started my career in EVS, many patients spoke English or Spanish, but some spoke other languages. One patient I remember spoke Korean, and I was helping the security guard try to understand what he was saying. The security guard started to become impatient with the man. I told the guard, ‘He doesn’t know our language the same way we don’t know his. Think how we sound to him.’ I asked the guard to give me five minutes alone with the man, and I would figure out what he wanted. I am Hispanic and have an accent. So, we both spoke with our accents, pointing and using sign language, and I figured out what he needed. EVS workers need the patience to help others. We need to remember we might be in a hospital in the same situation, and we would want to be treated with respect.”

Listening

“This is a big, big thing,” Torres says. “Many patients just want to be heard. Some have no one to talk to; no one comes to visit them. Some are from different areas or countries. A lady had been at the healthcare facility for four years by the time I started there. She had had a stroke and was in rehab, but she was not getting better. She couldn’t communicate, her speech was slurred, and she spoke sparingly. I came into her room and said, ‘Good morning, how are you?’ It was hard to understand her at first, but her answer was that she felt lonely. She was from Mexico and had no family here. She had no one to talk to. We got to be friends. I would talk to her and ask how she was. Some days she would cry and say she was not feeling good. She was eventually discharged, but I still saw her. When she heard I got promoted to supervisor, she congratulated me. Sometimes all it takes is the ability to listen.”

EVS Healthcare Services: Patient-Centered Care at Its Finest

With extensive experience serving the California healthcare industry, Servicon understands the importance of providing quality patient-centered care to meet the EVS healthcare needs of its clients. Click here to find out more about our healthcare services or contact Servicon’s VP of Strategic Partnerships, Stacey Wong, at stacey.wong@servicon.com.

About Wendy Torres

Wendy Torres left a career in nursing to join Servicon more than seven years ago. She started as a frontline worker and was promoted to lead EVS technician and site supervisor before becoming healthcare operations manager.

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