Seeing the Mess Right in Front of You: A Spring Cleaning Checklist
By Angie Patrick
We have all done it. When left to our own devices in waiting rooms, exam rooms, massage rooms, gyms and other healthcare-related locations, we all either consciously or subconsciously do a mental sweep for cleanliness. We all want to believe the place in which we visit and choose to place our trust keeps an orderly household and is free from cross contaminating issues. And whether we are aware of it or not, a mis-step here by staff or the proprietor can color your thinking of the practice or facility. We hold these providers to a higher standard of cleanliness than we often do within our own homes. Finding something that goes against your expectations for cleanliness can indeed sour your confidence in the provider a bit. Depending on the offending infraction, it may even result in you leaving the provider in search of cleaner grounds.
The Waiting Room
Let’s start with the waiting room. You may be thinking, “How much could possibly go wrong there?” Well, it is more than you think! The waiting room is the very first impression the client gets of what may lay ahead. Consider your clients sitting idly by, waiting for you to be clear of a previous client. What are they doing while they wait? Some are looking at their phones, checking email or web surfing. Some may be looking at magazines you have placed in your waiting area. Others may have nothing else to occupy them besides looking at your room and inspecting the elements within it.
Have you looked at the corners both high and low? Are there dust bunnies or cobwebs? Sometimes, behind the door can be easily missed by staff and cleaning crews and may well need attention. If you have artwork hanging, have you looked at the glass and frame for accumulated dust? Are your tables, shelves and counter tops free of clutter and dust? Are the plants healthy and watered? Do your retail offerings look tired and old? Does your retail display have gaps or need replenishing? If you have magazines, are they current or are they 6 to 12 months old? Missing these key areas can give your client the mental image of your practice being one that pays little attention to detail. If that is not the impression you would like to leave in the mind of your client, take some time to look at your waiting area with fresh eyes and work to declutter and cleanse the space.
The Treatment Room
Next, let’s discuss the treatment room. In this space, your client may disrobe, place personal items someplace within the room, and avail themselves to the comforts of your table. Beginning from the moment they enter the space, what are the first impressions? Does it smell clean or of essential oils, or does it smell like the breakroom with lunchtime leftovers from the previous night’s dinner? If you work in your home, does your cat box or other pet odor greet your clients upon entering? Does your space please the olfactory senses, or are there any faint unpleasant odors? If you cannot tell, ask a friend to check this for you periodically, as you may no longer be able to detect any unpleasant scents.
Visually, inspect your treatment room for many of the same issue we inspected the waiting room. However, in this case, you are going to go a step or two further. Consider what the client sees in your room from several perspectives, first being standing upright and walking into the room. What do they see at eye level and on the floor? When they look up, are your light bulbs all operable? Is there adequate lighting for them to complete tasks involved in preparing for treatment? Is there a place for them to place their personal effects with care, and not have them simply tossed on a chair? Is the place for their personal items something that can be wiped clean between clients?
The second place of inspection should be from a table perspective. The client will be spending a great deal of time here, and unless you get on your table and take a look, you may be missing some cleaning issues. Are the shelves, cubbies, counters and table tops seen from this angle free of dust, prints and debris? Are your chair legs free of dust and webs? As you will be able to see the underside of tables and carts, are there cob webs there that need to be removed? Look at the carpeting or flooring directly under the face cradle. Is it clean and debris free, or can the ghosts of salt or sugar granules from previous body scrubs be seen? Look at the waste baskets and specifically under toe kick plates of cabinetry for any gum wrappers, cough drop wrappers, or other trash lurking there.
Since we are discussing impressions from the table perspective, let’s objectively examine the table additives you use daily. Starting with your table warmer, look at it closely and inspect the wiring to be sure you have no signs of stress. Further, touch it yourself and insure you have no hot or cool spots. Consider your table warmer as a consumable product, because it truly is. Given its use day in, day out, for hours a day, you can rest assured these will eventually need replacing.
The same will hold true of your linens. With fresh eyes, take a long look at the linens your clients encounter. These linens are likely washed daily, or at a minimum several times weekly. This is as much as three to five times more often than your household bed linens, and with this much use and laundering, these too will begin to show signs of wear. Beyond visual inspection, touch and smell them and determine if they are fresh, soft and comfy, or if they have begun to pill and shed. Sheets are also a consumable product, and should be replaced once they become worn and no longer convey the image you wish to project of your practice. While these linens may no longer have a place in your practice, consider donating them to homeless shelters. If you have no homeless shelter in your area, consider these as a gift to your local animal shelter. They still have life remaining in them, so put them to great use.
Lastly, take in a visual evaluation of your treatment space from chair level. If the client uses a chair to re-dress following a treatment session, look at what they see from this seated perspective. If you have supplies on counters or carts, are they organized and housed in a sanitary way? If you have plants, again check to be sure they are not dry or dying. If you have chair rails, have they been wiped free of dust? If you have a mirror in the room for the client to use when re-dressing, is it free of smudges and prints? Has your waste basket been emptied prior to each client? If a client sees the same trash twice in separate visits, you may never see the client again and have no reason why they left. Unless you inspect from each and every angle you may not catch it all.
These suggestions are to coincide with your regular disinfecting and cross contamination prevention. Be sure you utilize the proper cleaners and adhere to all your national, state, county, province or city regulations regarding the sanitation of your space and the spread of germs and pathogens. While you may well be diligent in the disinfecting of your space, some of the items mentioned in this piece are easy to overlook, and can lead to the client having misconceptions about your practice. Taking a little extra time in making sure every item and every space your client encounters is free of any trace of previous clients is paramount to a positive impression being left in the mind of the client. They will feel well cared for, protected, and confident in your ability to provide quality treatment in a clean and well-kept environment.
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