Frantz Antoine, manager of the Environmental Services Department, is one of the winners of the 2006 YMCA Black Achiever of the Year awards.
What does the Environmental Services Department do?
We work to keep the hospital environment clean and safe for everyone.
What's your background?
I'm from Haiti originally—my mom is Haitian and my father is from Syria. I was actually brought up in a world of luxury since I was in the upper class there—I had maids, butlers and chauffeurs and things like that. I left Haiti when I was 16, eventually coming to Boston.
How did you get into Environmental Services?
I went to school part time for computer programming while I was working in the field of Environmental Services in New York, but I never ended up using that degree. I also went to pilot school where I learned how to fly a single-engine plane, but after a while, I said, "Nah, it's too lonely up there!" Basically, I liked my career in Environmental Services, and I've stuck with it for close to 30 years now. I've been at Children's Hospital Boston for the past six years.
How many employees do you have?
We have more than 300, counting Waltham. We have Hispanic, Cape Verdean, Ethiopian, Haitian, Chinese and Russian employees. We're like a United Nations department. And we all connect and communicate very well.
What's it like managing a staff of people from all over the world?
I try to have something in common with each member of my staff. I like to consider myself their confidant and friend in every way possible. I help them grow, whether it's helping them learn to speak English, how to use the computer or how to get to college. That's very satisfying. What's most important to me is to see them smiling and learning, and then see them move on from housekeeping to places they never expected they could go. I try to do that every day and it's why I try to speak their languages. I'm fluent in French and Spanish and I'm learning Cape Verdean, Creole, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Russian.
What makes your team special?
They care about what they're doing and about the children. I remember one patient who returned to the hospital after being away for a month and the first thing he said was, "Where is Josephina?" Josephina was one of the ESD staff who worked on that patient's unit. Apart from the nurses, ESD staff are the people that patients see most.
What would we be surprised to learn about ESD?
Behind the scenes, it's not just keeping the units clean. That's why they call us Environmental Services—we deal with everything from setting up conference rooms to changing a carpet to dealing with biohazards. We also deal with parents more than you'd think, especially if they've got a complaint. We have to figure out how to resolve the problem without getting anyone upset.
What hours does your staff work?
The majority work 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., but there are people here around the clock. They do about 14 rooms per unit each. The evening shift does the bulk of the cleaning.
What are the biggest rewards of working here?
To work in an environment that has a lot of different backgrounds and populations and to see that they all have the same goal: to help every child. Also, it's the way management cares about the staff—they make you feel like you're a part of a family. That's why people who work at Children's don't leave.
You seem to always be dressed to the nines.
Do you always wear such cool suits to work?
Yes, I do dress up for work like this every day.