Betty Adams: Training Manager, Facilities Department

Betty Adams, Training Manager for Facilities, has dedicated the last three years to developing and implementing an ongoing training plan to guide environmental care associates and technicians. Read a Q&A about her role at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Betty AdamsGroupWhen I came to Hopkins in 2014, there were over 700 environmental care employees and my predecessor had just retired. There were many needs. I was looking for information so I wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel. However, I was told that we would be starting fresh, which was good. I started doing discharge room cleaning, and anything I could to learn about the job and the challenges of the job, and to meet and get to know the staff.

What was your greatest challenge?

The biggest challenge was not having a training team and still meeting the needs of the department. I just recently got a team. Now, my staff is complete. I have eight instructors and one trainer.

When I started, I was here night and day. I was on Osler 8, all shifts, to train the staff to prevent the spread of infection with high-touch surface cleaning and environmental cleaning and monitoring. We put fluorescent gel on the surface and shine a black light to expose the areas that need more cleaning.

Throughout the process, I networked with Service Excellence, any department in infection control. The staff and I had to have a renewing of the minds. I became the social worker, the counselor and then the environmental care trainer, as I was a manager. I was from New York, so I was always the ‘New Yorker.’ I had to build the trust of the team and let them know that I really care. I am firm but I am fair. And I will protect the organization and the patients first, as well.

I tell the staff that you’re just as important as the surgeon, any medical team, because we’re all part of one patient care team. You prevent the spread of infection and you make the environment staff for all of us to work in or for the patients.

What impact do you think you are making with staff?

At one time, the cleaning scores weren’t good. Many had to repeat the cleaning test. I told them, ‘You need to understand why you do what you do, and the equipment in the room. The chair is not just a chair. It becomes a grab bar when the patient is weak.’ I didn’t want employees to just wipe surfaces like a robot.

Now, we have seen a sea of green many times (above 90 since 2015).

The environmental care employees took a picture with gold polo shirts to represent the accomplishment. It was a reward. The staff said, ‘You should have been there in the picture with us. You were there with us.’ I told them you did the work, you made the change.’

Now, we’re working on HCAPS scores and employee engagement.

Your training responsibilities go beyond cleaning.

Yes, I’m in the Facilities Department, and work closely with my colleagues to ensure that the trade workers are recertified and retrained. We have approximately 400 employees on the facilities side and EVC has about 692.

What about the State of Maryland apprentice supervisor training?

It’s supervisor training program for refugee and incumbents. Four are international apprentice and four are from here [the U.S]. The program is state- and Hopkins-supported. In collaboration with Hopkins, the agreement is that if we can hire part of our staff, the incumbents, and then others (called the refugee, or international people), come from all over the world, e.g. from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Mexico. I am still closely monitoring the inaugural group of eight apprentices—4 internals and 4 internationals—until they receive their certification.

Without this program, they would not qualify to be a supervisor. The program is 9 to 18 months. They are currently hospital employees. This is the first for EVC. The participants have classroom instruction on Saturdays, soft skills, computer training, management training, and then here its hands on how to start a shift, what to do before, during a shift, materials, cleaning,

They get a raise along the way, and then they have a salary, which is pretty good. Some of them came from working in a grocery store. Now, they have university credit and will have supervisory experience. They get all the benefits. It’s a win-win situation for them and for their generations to come.

Is this what I wanted to do when you were starting your career?

A few months back, I was thinking, ‘I can’t believe I work at a hospital.’ I like to braid hair, and I’m really good at it. I used to pray about making wigs for cancer patients. I worked for city government and I was thinking ‘How am I going to end up at a hospital or anywhere where they have cancer patients to produce this?’ Years later, I’m working at a hospital. It blows my mind because that was something on my heart. I’m not sure how that will happen or if it will ever happen. But instead of wigs or hair pieces for cancer patients, [I doing] encouragement, engagement, morale, clean environment, taking care of them.

Tell me more about yourself.

I was born in Harlem and I’m married with four kids. We’re a blended family and we have a grandson. My husband is a percussionist and a teacher and artist with Living Classrooms.

When people first meet me, they think I’m serious. Then when they get to know me they see I’m a comedian. Laughter is way to overcome a situation. They realized I have the clown gene. I take my job and what we do very seriously. I tell the staff, ‘Enjoy what you do. If you don’t, you have options.’

For me, it’s not a job, it’s a calling. You have to be all in or nothing. I’ve done things way outside of my title. It keeps me learning and it keeps  me helping. There is no limit, except if you ask me to do heart surgery.

--As told to Janet Anderson

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