414 Heroes: How a Housekeeper at Froedtert Hospital Is Making a Difference During the Crisis

“Do you know who my heroes are? All the people who have stayed home.”


I work on a surgical specialty floor. When we get to work, we make up our carts, with mops, cleaning cloths, bucket, rubber gloves. We use a special disinfectant, Oxycide, to wipe everything down. It kills C. diff [Clostridioides difficile], which is highly contagious.

I am responsible for cleaning 16 patient care rooms and 18 outer areas, such as the staff bathroom, visitors’ bathroom and visitors’ lounge. I wipe down all touch points: door handles, faucets, even handles on a walker. I’m also responsible for replacing toilet paper, paper towels, Purell and soap.

When a patient is discharged, we let the room sit for an hour. Then we strip it, take everything away, mop the floor, wipe everything down and make up the bed. Before COVID-19, I would just go in and clean the room without any PPE, unless the patient was in isolation. Now I wear an N95 mask all the time, beginning the minute I leave my car. 

Another thing that is different is that no visitors are allowed to see patients. So everybody on staff has to be like surrogate family. For instance, one elderly woman came in, very confused and she did not hear well. She didn’t know where her purse was. I told her it was locked up and safe. She wanted to call her daughter. I found the phone number and dialed it. She was worried that her Meals on Wheels deliveries would keep coming. I told her our social worker would make sure the deliveries were stopped. The woman was very appreciative.

I’m not nurse material — I get too flustered in an emergency. But as a housekeeper, I’m able to be in a healthcare setting and assist. I have the option to provide some extra TLC, and these days patients really need it. My favorite part is saying, “Is there anything else I can get for you?” And there is always something: water, juice, a warm blanket, charging their phone, getting something out of the closet if the patient can’t get out of bed. 

Patients always say, “Thank you so much for what you do.” Even if they can’t talk because they have a tracheotomy or laryngectomy, they’ll write the words on their white board.

Am I scared doing this work? I don’t think anyone can say they haven’t thought about it. I know my kids are concerned. But it’s my job to take care of my patients, so I don’t even think about it. I’m here for a reason. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. I’m just going in there and doing my job.

Do you know who my heroes are? All the people who have stayed home. They have helped the hospitals in Milwaukee and around the country flatten the curve.

– As told to Carolyn Kott Washburne