Oralia Arriaga has spent almost three decades in one of the most vitally important jobs at Lompoc Valley Medical Center. But many people will never meet her, nor will they ever comprehend the full scope of her job.
Oralia is the Lead Laundry Technician in the Environmental Services department. With 28 years of service, she is also the longest tenured EVS employee at LVMC.
In that role, she is responsible for coordinating a team of laundry workers who gather, wash, dry and distribute more than 67,000 pounds of linens (sheets and towels), gowns, uniforms, clothes and more every single month to a dozen different facilities, including the acute hospital’s medical/surgical area, operating room and emergency room; the Comprehensive Care Center; the Sleep Lab; offsite laboratory and imaging, Hematology-Oncology service and more. “I like what I do. I shouldn’t say ‘like.’ I love what I do,” Oralia said. “It’s hard work. But when I see the final product, I feel good.”
Born in Mexico, Oralia was an elementary school teacher for several years before moving to Washington state in the mid-1970s. She then moved to Lompoc and worked as a supervisor at Aramark for awhile, before taking the job at with LVMC laundry services. “We have a great group of workers,” she said. “I’m blessed. I’ve met so many kinds of people. I love this place. I’m loyal to the hospital.”
For almost 25 years of her employment, Oralia and her team of LVMC laundry technicians cleaned thousands upon thousands of pounds of laundry for the hospital and its various facilities using three small washers and dryers. The laundry room for the hospital district for those years was sandwiched into a small section of the Comprehensive Care Center, and laundry loads were shuttled back and forth to the hospital and other off-site buildings.
After the construction of the Champion Center at the former acute hospital site, the laundry department moved there to a wide open area with multiple rooms. There are now six washers and dryers, including those that can process 100 pounds of laundry at one time. “We can do a better job, faster and with better quality,” having the newer machines and more space, she says.
In addition to the extensive hospital laundry that must be processed, the team – with Oralia in charge – also launders the personal clothing and linens of the 110 residents of the CCC, both in the long-term and short-term care.
Oralia ensures her team not only launders and folds the residents’ clothing, but also hangs it up if necessary and often puts the full outfit together so the resident has easy access to a daily outfit. She’s very structured and very experienced. She knows each resident and what they like. I also credit her with having a sharp eye.
She’s very detailed when it comes to the quality of linen. Her rule of thumb is if it’s not good enough for her mother to be on, it’s not good enough for our patients. She says that all the time. She cares a great deal. She instills in her staff that she wants to produce high-quality service.
Oralia says when she checks the laundry closets and sees the linens “so nice and clean – it makes me feel good. I’m helping to prevent infections. I’m doing something important. In my department, I know what everybody does. I know how hard they work and how nice the place looks. I can see things are nice and clean. We always get compliments about this place (the hospital). It’s so nice to work with the people I’m working with.”
For her hard work, Oralia was named LVMC Employee of the Quarter in 2004. She is the mother of three children, and now has seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. “In my family, most of them have careers,” said Oralia. “My mother always said you shouldn’t care what kind of job you do. You need to do it right and you won’t have a problem. Be the best you can be. That’s what I’ve tried to do.”