Day in the (hospital) Life: Not your mother’s laundry room

By Eric Valdez Jun 16, 2014

Inside the laundry room

What it is: Just what the name implies, the Wyoming Medical Center laundry room cleans more than 3,000 pounds of laundry per day, including hospital gowns, bed linens, medical staff scrubs and more.
Who works there: The eight-person staff mans the laundry room from 5 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. They include department coordinator Lesa Daniels, who has worked at WMC for 10 years; Michael Brattis, 9 years; Wendi Bunn; Hong Hattermann, 8 years; Jacob McVay, 5 years; Stacy Pennell, 9 years; Amanda Robinson, 6 years; and Kimberly Carabajal. They all work at every station, rotating through to prevent overuse and repetitive movement injuries.  (Click the video above to see them hard at work!)
Where it is: The laundry is located in the basement of the Engineering Building, across Conwell Street from the main hospital building.
Why it’s important: Clean, sterile environments promote healing. The importance of our laundry staff cannot be understated. They play integral roles in providing patients safe and comfortable care.

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At first glance, the mission of a hospital laundry room is straightforward: Take dirty laundry and make it clean. That’s the easy part. The special balancing act comes from managing seven-day staffing, split-shifts and equipment issues to clean an average of 3,000 to 3,5000 pounds of laundry per day.

Most employees of Wyoming Medical Center have heard the stories of administration volunteering in the laundry room when employees are sick or in periods of high turnover. The hospital simply can’t run without clean bed linens, towels, scrubs and more. But, if you stop by for a visit, don’t expect to see anyone sitting in a comfy chair waiting for a load to finish drying. This isn’t your mother’s laundry room.

Hong Hatterman, at left, and Amanda Robinson run bed sheets through a machine that automatically irons and folds them.

Hong Hatterman, at left, and Amanda Robinson run bed sheets through a machine that automatically irons and folds them.

“Many people don’t last in the laundry department because it’s not what they expected. It’s not an easy job,” said laundry coordinator Lesa Daniels. “The laundry is heavy, especially when it’s wet and after you’ve lifted 100 or 200 pieces in an hour.”

The laundry department serves 33 areas of the hospital, The Sleep Lab and Central Wyoming Hospice and Transitions.  In 2013, it produced 1,111,522 pounds of clean laundry such as linens, washcloths, pajamas, robes and much more. Each piece is handled by someone in the department about eight times.

Days begin at 5 a.m. when the wash techs arrive and proceed to the “chute room” on the first floor.  All soiled linen ends up here through chutes from each floor. Laundry is collected in three buckets that are emptied by the wash techs and taken to the washroom (called the dirty room by laundry staff). Here, each piece is sorted by its level of “soiledness” into large bags weighing 75 or 150 pounds. The most heavily soiled pieces need to be washed longer than others.

Once the laundry is sorted, the washing begins in the department’s two large industrial washers. The older machine washes 150 pounds of laundry at a time. The newer machine, installed in 2013, can wash 450 pounds.

At 6 a.m., the linen techs arrive and round on each floor to fill the linen carts. They log what linens were used through the night so they can be restocked twice a day with an exchange cart. Operating Room scrubs are restocked once a day.

Once the first wash load of the day is finished it’s unloaded from the massive washing machines into carts and loaded into the dryers. Dry linens are unloaded and proceed through the ironing and/or folding process. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

“My favorite area to work is in the 'dirty room,'" Daniels said. “I just think of it as a work out every time I work there.”

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Michael Brattis empties clean laundry from one of the large washers.

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Wendi Bunn collects folded sheets spit out by the automatic folder to be delivered to the floors.

"Day in the (hospital) life” is an occasional series highlighting the work that goes on every day in Wyoming Medical Center departments. Not all of the work may be evident to our patients, but all of it is essential to bringing you safe, compassionate care.

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