The Side Job: Jessie scrubs the wards

'So it’s always been part of my life, basically.'
Photo Guy Ackermans

Who: Jessie van Doesburg (26)
What: cleaning in a hospital in Doetinchem
Why: Switch off and get cleaning
Hourly wage: €14.08 (gross)

You’ve got to make ends meet somehow. We can all borrow from Uncle Duo, but there are also students who earn money from unusual side jobs, like Jessie van Doesburg (26), a Master’s student of Molecular Life Sciences. She has been cleaning at the Slingeland regional hospital in Doetinchem for nearly 10 years now.

‘I started this cleaning job when I was at secondary school. I was born in this hospital, and my mum and my sister work here too. So it’s always been part of my life, basically. I clean all the different spaces a hospital has, from offices and corridors to operating theatres. Whatever can come out of a human body, you’ll encounter at some point. Sometimes patients don’t make it to the toilet and there are faeces on the floor. That can happen on the gastrointestinal and liver ward particularly. In the MRI and CT scan department, there is blood occasionally. You really have to hold your nose sometimes. It is varied work because of the different kinds of wards and I like the fact that I don’t have to think about it too much.’

‘Each ward has its own procedures. At the isolation ward, I first go through a changing room and get wrapped in protective clothing from top to toe. After doing the cleaning, I go out through the same room and all the protective clothing is discarded. In the Covid period, that ward was completely full. In another ward, where the chemo patients are, the faeces are radioactive. So I clean everything twice there, to be on the safe side. Afterwards, the cleaning wipes go into a separate bag with a special washing programme.

Whatever can come out of a human body, you’ll encounter at some point

Of course, people die in the hospital, and I can be told: ‘Someone has just died in room three, you’ll have to wait before cleaning there.’ Members of my family have died here too. Because our cleaning corner is next to the mortuary, I sometimes see the dead bodies being brought in. The dead no longer feel pain, but I find it upsetting to see weeping relatives. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often. I often work at weekends and there are other girls of my age working then too, so it’s always very sociable.’

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