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Cleaning With Kindness

How Environmental Services Staff Uplift Patients

When Lashana Banks-Hill, a housekeeping assistant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, received a thank-you letter from a former patient, she was surprised.

“I was overwhelmed with joy that someone recognized me in that way,” says Banks-Hill. “I took that letter and got it laminated to hang alongside my other accolades.”

This letter of gratitude came from Cristen Paciolla Michels, a patient at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, who says Banks-Hill showed her kindness during her stay. Cristen shared her story with WGN News. “She would sit, talk to me and cheer me on every day,” says Cristen. “She felt like family while I was there.”

I’m more than just a housekeeper.
— Lashana Banks-Hill

The letter was delivered by WGN News Anchor Erin Ivory, who was hospitalized at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in 2020 with heart failure.

More Than a Housekeeper

Banks-Hill began her career at Northwestern Memorial Hospital 17 years ago after working at a restaurant inside the hospital. She says she always enjoys going above and beyond for patients.

“I’m more than just a housekeeper,” she explains. “I greet patients, show them where to go if they are lost, and keep a smile on their faces. I tell patients not to be nervous and assure them that everything will be OK. Some people are in the hospital during the holidays with no family, so I always want to make sure they feel uplifted by telling jokes or giving compliments.”

In addition to patient interactions, Banks-Hill says her colleagues are another reason she enjoys coming to work. “All of the staff, including nurses and physicians, make me feel special and included,” she explains. “They don’t just treat me as a housekeeper. They make me feel like we are all on one team.”

Culture of Kindness

Some of Banks-Hill’s colleagues received similar letters of gratitude, which stemmed from a Facebook post created by Ivory in which she celebrated an Environmental Services employee who lifted her spirits. 

On Facebook, Ivory wrote:

“One afternoon, a housekeeper came in to empty the garbage. He told me he, too, had suffered a heart attack and was saved by the doctors at Northwestern. He had this huge smile, sharing his own story of recovery and joy…as he collected the garbage bags. It was like he used the janitorial duties as a conduit for his real purpose — to lift the spirits of the patients in the same place he once was. So powerful and strange, for me as a story teller to have someone else’s story change my outlook in such a profound way. I’m so grateful to this man because in that moment he helped me turn the page to a new chapter.

People flooded this post with similar stories of gratitude for Environmental Services staff at Northwestern Medicine:

  • “I went through hard times in hospital last year at Northwestern. Was alone and cried constantly. The lady cleaning the room would talk to me daily and give me loving advice and tell me how much she was praying for me. We both cheered and rejoiced the day I got released. It was if I had family there with me.”
  • “Northwestern’s cleaning woman was my champion when I was there with staph infection in leg. I’m not religious, but almighty works in mysterious ways. Her love radiated the room. #grateful.”
  • “Had emergency heart surgery in 2019 at Northwestern and they saved my life! Saved me again when I got covid in early 2020. The entire staff was incredible. The only place to go!“
  • “I’ll bet you that was the same house keeper who cleaned my room too. My nurses that I remembered, Elsa, Samantha, Emily along with all the patients care techs.”
Banks-Hill says the thank-you notes from patients are just a bonus: It’s the daily patient connection that keeps her coming to work every day. “I’m going to retire from Northwestern Medicine,” she says. “I always hear people say we are the best hospital, and I agree. I am not just an employee; I’m also a patient, so I know there’s no better hospital.”
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