Health care organizations are giving high marks to the Association for Healthcare Environment (AHE), an AHA personal membership group, for its certification program that validates environmental services (ES) technicians’ competencies and skill. 

They say the certification program – Certified Healthcare Environmental Services Technician (CHEST) – recognizes their employees’ increasingly strategic role in health care. AHE developed the program last year to help organizations provide uniformity of training and education across multiple facilities within a system and create a highly skilled patient-centric workforce. 

More than 500 ES technicians so far have been certified through the CHEST program and AHE expects the number to reach 700 by the end of the year. 

AHE piloted CHEST in August 2015, at Renown Health in Reno, Nev. “It has paid off handsomely,” says Michelle Bay, Renown Health’s manager for facility engineering and environmental services. “I am passionate about this program.” 

Bay took an AHE’s “train-the-trainer” session so she could deliver the CHEST certification program directly to her ES team. Classes are held over three days. Bay so far has certified 72 ES technicians.   

“I see the employees gather together for lunch and discuss the topics we covered in class that day and the camaraderie begins,” she says.  

CHEST trains front-line ES personnel in seven core areas: infection prevention; cleaning and disinfecting; communications; safety; waste management; linen handling; and floor care. 

CHEST has “empowered our front line technicians,” Bay says. “They know they can handle any standard or transmission-based precautions with confidence.” 

AHE Executive Director Patti Costello says the program is “not just teaching trainers how to train to the technical content; we’re also training to the ‘why’ the job needs to be performed a certain way every time – in this case, patient safety, customer service and positive outcomes.”  

That approach is key to the program’s effectiveness, says Dan Bennett, ES manager for St. Joseph Hospital-North in Lutz, Fla. “Knowing how the outcomes can affect the department, the clinical staff and most importantly the patient can be a game changer,” he says.  

To date, the organization has certified 15 supervisors and 20 team members through CHEST. “The certification has given the team members a sense of pride in their performance,” Bennett says. “It has given them confidence in handling challenging situations and shown them that we are committed to their professional growth. It’s made for a more competent and professional team.” 

As part of its efforts to redesign its ES department, Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa., plans to certify all of its 575 ES specialists through CHEST. So far, 18 have been certified.  

“We are creating a career ladder for [ES personnel], and have seen a tremendous amount of excitement and satisfaction with the certification process that is passed on to our patients,” says Erik Nowak, the health system’s senior director of ES and Surgical Cleaning Services. He adds that CHEST “helps us to recognize the best of the best and ensures that they are recognized for their hard work.”   

Visit www.ahe.org to learn more about CHEST.