Keepers of the House

Every day of the week, environmental service workers enter hospital patients’ rooms to clean. Their work may bring a measure of dignity and connection to people who are sick, vulnerable, and away from their familiar homes. Because these workers are assigned to the same specific areas of the hospital, they often develop meaningful relationships with patients and their families. In this 15 minute documentary video, eight housekeepers at Duke Hospital and Duke Regional Hospital talk about their special human relationships with patients and the ways in which they believe their work contributes to healing. It is our hope that the film will enable health care providers and students to see the housekeepers in a new light, and give serious consideration to the vital themes of empathy, humility, and teamwork.

To schedule a special showing or discussion, contact: neil.prose@duke.edu.

We are in the process of preparing a curriculum that will facilitate the use of this film in classrooms and other learning environments. In the meantime, we would recommend that you ask learners in small groups to reflect on these 3 questions: What surprised you most about this film, and why? ; What was your favorite story in the film and why? ; How might the lessons of this film affect the ways you interact with others in your work environment?

We believe an important issue for the film’s health care audiences is related to the way in which we choose to ignore or to interact positively with hospital housekeepers. An insightful reference (Jane Dutton et al.) on the behaviors that make hospital housekeepers feel valued or devalued at work is available to read here.

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