Fletcher Allen, a Vermont university hospital and medical center, serves all of
Vermont and the northern New York region. Located in Burlington, Fletcher Allen is a regional, academic healthcare center and teaching hospital in alliance with the University of Vermont.
Career Corner - Cristal VeStrand
Q & A with Cristal VeStrand
Cristal VeStrand is the Manager of Operations for Environmental Services at Fletcher Allen. Cristal, who has worked at Fletcher Allen for 18 years, is proud of the accomplishments her department has made over the years, from implementing the use of environmentally friendly cleaning products to helping employees develop a deep sense of pride in the work they do each and every day.
Q: How did you begin a career in Environmental Services?
A: I grew up in Vermont and started my career in housekeeping at a local ski resort when I was in high school. I came to Fletcher Allen 18 years ago to work in Environmental Services as a Lead, was promoted to a Supervisor, then ultimately to Manager of the department.
Q: Over the past several years, Fletcher Allen has replaced non-green materials and worked to reduce the total number of products in use. What brought about this change?
A: We understand the importance of keeping patients healthy by caring for them in a clean and healthy environment. Fletcher Allen has strived to be one of the greenest health care organizations in the country, and we have a long tradition of environmental responsibility. We use products that clean multiple surfaces at different concentrations, allowing us to reduce the number of products we use and clean more efficiently. We’re also fortunate enough to have employees who are passionate about the environment and want to make a difference.
Q: Tell us about the Environmental Services Department.
A: Environmental Services has 193 employees – 20 of whom are on our leadership team. We are responsible for housekeeping, recycling, medical waste, solid waste, conference room scheduling and the delivery of patient beds. We have employees from 27 different countries who speak more than 35 languages. Our staff is a diverse group that feels a tremendous sense of pride in what they do.
Q: What are some of the green cleaning practices your department has implemented?
A: In recent years, we began focusing on cleaning practices that help reduce hospital-acquired infections. Implementing microfiber was the first step for Environmental Services, and we are probably one of the few in the industry to fully implement the use of microfiber instead of cloth or disposable. We discovered that the cotton cleaning cloths were compromising the effectiveness of our disinfectant; therefore we began researching and trialing microfiber. With the use of the microfiber program, we were able to reduce our floor chemicals by 35% using a pre-determined amount of solution. This solution is absorbed into the mops and eliminates unused chemicals reducing waste. We also purchased new equipment that eliminates the use of chemicals when performing floor maintenance, which traditionally requires harsh chemicals.
Q: Can you explain why the work of Environmental Services is so important to the health of patients?
A: Our staff understands the importance of their job and doing it well. Fletcher Allen’s Senior Leadership acknowledges the importance of what our team does as it relates to high-quality health care and patient-centered care. We have taken the housekeeping role and really made it about the care of the patient. Our nursing staff plays a huge role in helping our staff be part of their team.
Q: What are some support services and resources Environmental Services employees can access at Fletcher Allen?
A: We support our employees and have identified some of the challenges they face with transportation and child care. We partner with the United Way, which sends a Resource Coordinator to Fletcher Allen twice a week to meet with employees who need support accessing resources. We also have a loan program with New England Federal Credit Union to support employees with their personal finances. It's all part of the United Way's "Working Bridges" program.
Q: Do you offer any professional development training and education programs?
A: We offer a GED program and English as a Second Language through Vermont Adult Learning. We also have a succession planning program where employees can develop their skills to the next level in Environmental Services. Working in this department provides many opportunities for growth – both personally and professionally.
Q: What skills do you look for when hiring a new employee?
A: Strong customer service skills and a good attitude are important. We also need our employees to be flexible because not every day is the same. Currently we’re looking to fill Leadership and Entry-Level positions.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Our employees are like my second family. We care about each other and want each other to be successful. For me, one of the most rewarding things has been changing the perception of the department; it’s about much more than just cleaning rooms. We’ve helped staff understand that what they do is important and ultimately serves the health of the patient. We all have a title, we all have a job, but we do it together, as one.