Terry Gottselig, a uniform clerk with Regina General Hospital’s (RGH’s) Uniform Room, recently said two words she never thought she’d hear herself say again: “I’m ahead.”
The last time she remembers having such a sense of accomplishment was nearly a decade ago.
Gottselig and her colleagues, whose tasks include dispensing scrubs and uniforms to RGH’s staff, are reaping the rewards of a number of improvement events that began when the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region shifted to generic from personalized scrubs in 2015. This change supported the transfer of linen processing from Saskatchewan health regions to one provider – K-Bro Linen Systems. The most recent improvement activity was a 5S in October 2016 which saw the number of scrubs on hand reduced by 90 per cent, from 8,046 pieces to 607.
5S stands for sort, simplify, sweep, standardize and self-discipline and is based on the understanding that there’s a place for everything, and everything is in its place.
“You didn’t have room to scratch your head before. It was chaotic.”
(Terry Gottselig, uniform clerk, Regina General Hospital)
Giles Vanderlaan, manager of Linen Services and the 5S event process owner, agrees. The purpose of the October 5S “was to organize the room and make it more functional,” said Vanderlaan, a goal the team achieved in abundance. “It’s more airy. There’s room to move. It’s not claustrophobic,” he said.
“We know where everything is and, when we walk, we aren’t bumping into things.” (Emily Kentz, uniform clerk)
Removing the excess scrubs allowed the 5S team, led by 3S Health but with participants from 3S and RQHR, to remove one three-meter-long carousel and 10 meters of shelving that held excess uniform inventory.
“Before moving to a generic system, I had between seven and 20 carts to sort each shift, depending on the staffing,” says Gottselig. “Now, I have four carts.”
Three of these carts are parked a short walk from the uniform dispensing window, and positioned in a “U” shape to give uniform clerks full access to every size and to support a “first in, first out” system.
Overall, the time savings are noticeable. When putting away respiratory uniforms, for example, Gottselig and her colleagues walk 40 per cent less, in the neighbourhood of 39 steps rather than the previous 66.
Staff also save time, and touch linens less, because uniforms arrive from K-Bro folded and ready to dispense. Fewer touches mean fewer opportunities to spreading germs.
Creating designated work areas has also supported staff efficiency. The 5S team brought in a height adjustable desk so uniform clerks can sit or stand when rolling scrubs for the operating rooms Pyxis dispensing system. Previously, Gottselig said she generally stood throughout her entire shift, and used her desk to roll uniforms.
The seamstress, too, has her own space, with the addition of a large table for sewing and mending. Gottselig said the 5S changes have made her work life more enjoyable. “Now, I don’t feel pressured.”
Although the 5S has concluded, Vanderlaan said improvement work will be ongoing. Linen Services continues to monitor with K-Bro the number of scrubs required by RGH daily to determine the appropriate amounts. Vanderlaan believes they are getting close.
“Our goal is to keep improving our customer services and our staff safety. This is part of the Uniform Room’s philosophy.”