Welcome to Defender Profiles. Here you’ll learn about one of our amazing defenders of childhood – everything from what they do for CHOC to what they do for fun – and gain insight into a different department in our health system.
Patty Hernandez always wondered what it would be like to work at CHOC, and one day applied to a role in environmental services on a whim. Now, four years later, she works as an environmental services (EVS) aide on the morning shift at CHOC Orange and says that the patients and families she’s met have changed and inspired her. A mom of two, Patty loves spending time with her family, gardening and being out in nature, and she puts her whole heart into keeping CHOC clean for our patients.
How long have you worked at CHOC?
I have worked at CHOC for four years. Before CHOC, I was a stay-at-home mom and had a variety of different jobs – I worked as a caretaker for the elderly and in makeup artistry for events, but felt like I needed something else. I always wondered what it would be like to work at CHOC – it seemed like an inspiring place to work. One day, as I was scrolling through job openings online, I saw a position with EVS that sounded interesting. I applied and one month later got a call about the position. When I was offered the job, I couldn’t believe it; working at CHOC had been a dream for so long.
Can you describe your current role?
I started in EVS working the second shift, and at the end of 2021, I switched to the morning shift. I’ve learned so much from both. When I worked on the second shift, I was able to engage with different departments and learn the entire hospital. I was always on the go and moving quickly from one spot to the next. My role now involves routine cleaning of rooms and prepping equipment in 3 PICU West; everything is very by-the-book. This has forced me to slow down and focus on each room individually. Walking through the rooms, I know where the germs are and how important it is to eliminate them from high-touch surfaces like counters, faucets, light switches and keyboards. I’ve also learned the importance of disinfection; it’s not something I had an awareness of before. And of course, one of my favorite things about this job is that I get to interact with the same patients and families each day and really get to know them.
What do you love about your current role?
Cleaning and disinfecting at CHOC is so important to me, and every day I put my whole heart into it. Every time I engage with someone – patients, families or staff – they are so appreciative! I feel like our department is now seen as essential to the hospital, and that the everyone is aware of how important it is. It’s heartwarming for me to see that others understand that disinfection is necessary to keep kids healthy, and I love that we all work together to make this a clean and safe space. I feel like I’m truly a part of the hospital.
How has your role changed due to the pandemic?
There has been an enhanced emphasis on cleaning and disinfection since the pandemic began. Every day we stress the importance of a bacteria-free environment for not only the sake of our patients’ recoveries, but for the sake of the hospital, nurses and doctors as well. As a parent myself, I have to make sure I’m doing my best each day to keep the kids at CHOC and my own kids healthy.
What do you love about working at CHOC?
The teamwork! Even a simple, “Good morning, we’re glad you’re back!” from the nurses brightens my whole day. Associates really notice the presence of our department now, and they actively help us. I love that we’re working together.
Do you have any favorite moments or stories about working at CHOC that you can share?
Recently, there was a patient and his mom who I saw every shift for several months. One day, I could see the mom was having a hard time and I told her, “Everything is going to be OK. Your son is a trooper, and he’s going to be alright.” She told me that she felt like I answered her prayers in that moment. I continued to see them for several more weeks, and one day when I walked into their room, the patient spoke to me. His mom said I was the first person he’d spoken to since getting his tube out, and we cried together and hugged. I can’t describe how special it makes me feel to know that I was someone he recognized as making a difference in his day. This is just one of the many times I’ve engaged with a family in a way that has touched me. I see my role as so much more than its job description because of the interaction I get to have with patients and families.
What do you wish people knew about EVS?
I want people to know how much we care about the families at CHOC. We may not provide the medical care, but we do provide compassion and support. Aside from cleaning and ensuring their environment is safe, we provide a shoulder to lean on and cry on. And sometimes, we provide that same shoulder to our fellow staff members. Our team truly cares about everyone in this hospital.
What do you feel makes someone a great defender of childhood?
A great defender of childhood is someone who shows up and moves forward regardless of the situation. They have hope that we’re all going to get through the tough times, because at the end of the day, we are a family at CHOC. The unity we have around our desire to see happy and healthy children is so bright and astonishing. We all just want to see these wonderful kids go home!
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I have two kids – my daughter, Denise, who is 18, and my son, Mark, who is 9. My husband, Marco, and I have been together for 19 years.
I love being in nature, especially hiking and exploring. I always try to take a moment to just sit, be still and feel nature around me, because it’s my connection to nature that helps me heal in times of stress. I also love plants; gardening slows me down after a busy shift, and it feels so nice to get my hands dirty. I call my garden my personal space.
COVID was very tough on our family and brought us a lot of anxiety. Between remote learning for my son and the stress of working for me, we had a very difficult few months, but the pandemic has ultimately allowed me to become more loving and patient, connect more with my son and change the energy I put out into the world. It also brought us the newest member of our family: our sweet bulldog puppy, Poppa! He brought us together during a tough time and pulled us out of our COVID funk.