Behind the Scenes at Avera McKennan: Housekeeper Adds a Touch of Humor

As she pushes along her yellow and black Rubbermaid cart, Cindy Robish greets the other Avera McKennan employees and visitors on two west, the neuro and orthopedic floor.

“She’s a communication intern, so she’s following me,” Robish said, explaining my presence.

“To make sure you can hear your pages overhead?” Karli Oye joked.

The red-haired housekeeper in dark blue scrubs jokes with Oye about that evening’s Barry Manilow concert, singing “Copabanana” and miming a cha-cha inspired dance move.

Interactions like these make up Robish’s morning, and they explain the smile frequenting her face.

“I like visiting with the patients and co-workers,” Robish said. “When I get to know you, I’m quite a talker.”

Robish enjoys asking patients where they’re from and establishing possible connections.

“It’s amazing how many people you know,” she said.

All in a Day’s Work

She cleans patient rooms, the kitchen, computer areas, the public bathrooms, and the nurses’ lounge area. Leaving the unit cleaner than when she found it provides fulfillment for Robish.

When I ask if her own home is kept as clean as the hospital, she responds with laugher and a “no.” She’d rather be fishing for walleye or perch at Scott’s Slough northwest of Sioux Falls in her free time.

Around 9 a.m., she takes her break with the other housekeepers, a group of seven women who appear to be out for a coffee date rather than in between cleaning rooms. They tell me a little about Robish.

“She’s a hardworker.”

“She likes to laugh.”

“She’s fun to work with.”

“Did you [Cindy] pay her to do this?”

It’s clear the group enjoys Robish and isn’t afraid to give her a hard time.

They go out for dinner once in awhile; they recently went to the Olive Garden together.

Robish is methodical in cleaning the rooms, starting with sanitizing the light switch and door handle and throwing questions to the patient in between tasks.

“If I don’t do a lot of talking, I can get out of there in 15-20 minutes,” Robish said.

She’s sensitive to patients when cleaning their rooms; if they’ve recently finished eating she will return later, not wanting the faint smell of the cleaning chemicals to make anyone ill.

Robish has been a housekeeper at Avera McKennan for almost nine years. She’s cleaned more than 30,000 patient rooms in her time here and made just as many, if not more, peoples’ days.

Housekeeping Fast Facts

  1. 74 full- and part-time housekeepers
  2. Around 400 patient rooms
  3. In one week, the hospital goes through:
  • 3,600 bundles of paper towels
  • 264 jumbo rolls of toilet paper
  • 15,500 garbage bags
  • 86 bottles of hand soap and hand sanitizer

4.  Some housekeepers with knowledge of multiple languages  will interpret for the hospital


By Kristina Johnson

Marketing Intern at Avera McKennan

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