‘It’s harder to be afraid:’ Cleaning crew member plays essential role during pandemic
Jeff Washington started his new job with Advocate Aurora Health one year ago, back before COVID-19 upended lives and the health care system.
By his second month on the job as a floor technician at South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill., he was donning personal protective equipment for every shift in order to stay safe and keep the hospital clean for patients and staff.
But Washington, a United States Navy veteran, was not deterred or discouraged. He has taken the pandemic, and all of its challenges, in stride.
Throughout the past year, his co-workers said, Washington has come to work with a smile and a positive attitude despite the constant demands and risks of the pandemic. Washington has been a reliable, affable member of the cleaning crew, ensuring the hospital is safe for clinicians on the front lines and the patients they serve.
“At the end of the day, if you’re doing your job well,” Washington said, “you’re keeping people safe.”
For all of his hard work, Washington was recently honored on NBC Sports Network’s “Assist of the Game” feature. His efforts were spotlighted on the air during one recent Chicago Bulls and one Chicago Blackhawks game broadcast.
Cleaning patient rooms, disinfecting COVID-19 areas and making sure the hospital is in tip-top shape is Washington’s way of serving others during the pandemic. Taking daily safety precautions in order to evade a dangerous virus can be trying at times, he said, but he presses forward. Sometimes he prays.
“You go in and try the best you can to be safe and do what you need to do to keep yourself safe,” Washington said. “It’s a hard thing to do, but it’s harder to be afraid.”
Washington, like all Advocate Aurora Health team members, had the chance to sign up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. He jumped at the chance, he said, because it is the best way to protect himself, his family and other team members. He has received both doses, providing a bit of relief.
“I believe it’s a good thing. Everybody should get it,” said Washington, a married father of three. “It makes you feel a little bit more protected and gives you hope that eventually things will get better with time.”
About the Author
Patrick M. O'Connell, health enews contributor, is a member of Advocate Aurora Health's public affairs team. He previously worked as a reporter at news outlets throughout the Midwest, most recently the Chicago Tribune. He enjoys playing and coaching baseball and basketball, hiking, reading, listening to podcasts, karaoke and spending time in nature with his family.