Viewpoint: Housekeepers play a valuable role in patient care

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Housekeepers and other hospital service workers are a vital part of patients' care teams and should be treated as such, two physicians wrote in an op-ed for STAT.

Neil Prose, MD, and Ray Barfield, MD, PhD, are both professors of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C. In the op-ed, the physicians describe an epiphany they had after seeing a housekeeper conversing with a sick patient's parents during afternoon rounds. They met the housekeeper, Malcolm, in the hallway and learned he often spoke with patients' families about their concerns and offered support, calling himself not a "housekeeper," but a "keeper of the house."

"Malcolm's description of what he does knocked us back on our heels," Drs. Prose and Barfield wrote. "It made us realize that we pass dozens of housekeepers in the corridors and elevators every day and — like most other physicians — pay little attention to what they really do and had little appreciation of their contributions to patient care."

This realization spurred the physicians to create a focus group on the subject, and that effort led them to make a 15-minute documentary detailing how housekeepers participate in patient care.

"No matter where you work, you are a member of one or more teams that are larger than you imagine," they concluded. "Doctors like us — and our healthcare institutions — need to give keepers of the house, along with food service workers, patient transporters, and other 'invisible' workers the respect they have long deserved."

To read the full op-ed, click here.

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