Coming from around the world to help at home

Working tirelessly behind-the-scenes is a group of IU Health team members who have a special skill – making the hospital feel like home away from home.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes,

She came here from the Ivory Coast 16 years ago and began working at IU Health a few years later. Oumou Komara, married with two teen-age daughters is one of several members of the IU Health housekeeping staff who understand what it’s like to be away from home.

“This was my first job. I’ve met amazing people who have helped me improve my English and settle into the country I now call home,” said Komara. “I like being around the patients and I like to make them feel comfortable.” She is assigned to 3 South at IU Health University Hospital.

Deb Klahn, Training Manager for Environmental Services (EVS) at IU Health says there are 400 EVS employees at the downtown hospitals. She estimates about 80 are from different countries including Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Poland and Taiwan.

In the EVS offices a large map hangs on the wall and team members add a pin to show their country of origin.

“We’re such a diverse group that our plan was to give team members a chance to talk about their countries,” said Carla Thomson, a department manager.

Team members go through extensive training in areas including chemical safety, infection prevention, and ergonomics. The training can last from two weeks to 30 days with employees working with a preceptor to gain hands-on training. They also learn about personal protection when handling bio-hazardous wastes.

“We tell people that we save lives every day. You don’t have to be clinical to have a hand in patient care,” said Michael Bigelow, also a manager.

Housekeeping is responsible for cleaning and disinfecting all the rooms after patients are discharged, and then maintaining that standard of cleanliness during a patient’s stay. Some housekeeping staff members also run UVC lights – to check for germs – especially in isolation rooms. They also clean shared areas of the hospitals and the nurse stations.

“Every day I come here and I am thankful that I have a job that I like and nice people to work with,” said Komara.