Hospital Janitor Enjoys Healthy Work Area

If she’s not too busy, Lily Cruz might just clean windows.

Cruz is a janitor in the critical-care unit at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach. She has cleaned patients’ rooms, offices and waiting areas at the county’s second-largest hospital weekdays for the past 14 years. “I dust, mop the floors, clean toilets and sinks and make beds every day,” she said.

Cruz and 100 others are employed in the hospital’s environmental services department. From 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., she works to ensure that the 12 rooms in her area of the unit are kept germ- and dirt-free.

“It’s a routine,” Cruz said. “I empty trash, change sheets, put everything in order.”


Cruz, 35, admits that at times her job can be tedious, but said it is the interaction with hospital staff that keeps her going. “Once in a while I get bored,” Cruz said. “But, in my small community, I’m important. On my days off, people ask where I was. That motivates me to work. I feel appreciated.”

Emergencies also break up the monotony. Cruz and three nurses work in tandem to clean and prepare rooms for incoming patients.

Originally from Guatemala City, Cruz came to California in November, 1977, along with her mother and younger sister, Patricia, in search of economic opportunity. A year before, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake in Guatemala killed 22,778 and left the Cruz family destitute.

“After the earthquake, our family had financial problems,” Cruz said. “We had nothing. We came to California because my grandmother lived here.”


At the time, Cruz’s grandmother lived in Costa Mesa, though she has since moved to Sacramento. Cruz’s father also lived in California. In fact, he worked at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian the year Cruz started. It was he who told Cruz about the job opening.

“It was my first job,” Cruz said. “We came without money. I had to work to support my family. My parents were separated.”

Cruz lives in Rancho Santa Margarita along with her husband and three daughters. Now that her children are in school, Cruz said she has begun to think more of her own future and has enrolled in a class at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo to improve her written English skills.

“I don’t want to leave the hospital, but I would like to change the area,” Cruz said. She’d like to work assisting patients for surgery. “I see that I have to evolve. Now that my children are older, it’s time for me.”



OCCUPATION: Hospital Janitor

* What’s involved: Daily cleaning of hospital facilities and supplying of patient rooms and offices. Janitors make sure hospital is kept neat and in order.

* Qualifications: The ability to bend, stoop and lift up to 60 pounds, good hearing and vision, and an ability to use cleaning equipment.


* Outlook: By 1998, the number of jobs is expected to increase by 8.5%, to 2,560.

* Salary range: Starting salaries range from $7.05 to $10.25 per hour.

* Pros: Low stress, interacting with people.

* Cons: Not much room for advancement; can become routine.


* Advancement: Hospital janitors can eventually become pharmacy runners, delivering prescriptions.

* Quote: “There’s no tension and I have a lot of freedom.” --Lily Cruz

Researched by VALERIE WILLIAMS-SANCHEZ / Los Angeles Times