Clean – Stories of People who Clean in Hospitals after Trauma

Clean will be an original storytelling Theater of Witness project that will be created with Environmental Service Associates (EVS associates or ‘cleaners’) who clean in hospital trauma bays, operating rooms, emergency departments and patient rooms. The project will bring together a group of six EVS workers to engage in a year-long exploration of their personal and collective stories about the experiences and emotional effects of cleaning in a hospital setting following trauma, violence, illness and care.

Watch this video to learn more about the project. 

Clean will culminate in an original Theater of Witness production and film that will tour various entities within the Penn Medicine health system, and be performed publicly in West Philadelphia. Performed by the EVS associates themselves, the production will serve as a way for hospital staff, patients and other members of the care teams to learn from the first-hand accounts of those who clean up what most of us don’t want to see.

Often overlooked and undervalued, this project seeks to lift up the people who do the essential work of keeping hospitals clean and safe. We are especially excited about shifting the hierarchy within institutions so that staff and providers have the opportunity to listen to and be inspired by the voices of those often not heard and who are often considered to be at the bottom rung of the ladder. The very people who keep the hospital functioning as a sterile environment for care. And who find ways of creating essential and meaningful relationships with patients that other healthcare staff are not always able to do.

We are also interested in the deeper metaphorical question of what it means to cleanse? How do we cleanse ourselves? How do we cleanse our broken institutions? How do we cleanse from the trauma of gunshot violence, poverty, racism, and hopelessness?

And what can we learn from the wisdom and lived experience of those who have been on the frontlines before, during and since the pandemic? How can those who clean teach all of us about our common connections, resilience and humanity?

We are seeking initial seed funding to begin this exciting project with the hopes that it will blossom into something magnificent and powerful that will open important and life changing conversations. Your generous donation allows us to begin the project as we continue to source foundational support. If you are able to donate, you can do so here.

(Featured image: Three of the EVS associates who will perform in Clean | photographed by Ariel Desphy-Carter)