Each year, the second Sunday of October marks the start of Central Service Week. These seven dedicated days provide a perfect opportunity for Central Service/Sterile Processing (CS/SP) professionals to honor their profession, educate the public and other departments within the healthcare organization, and foster interdepartmental collaboration in the name of patient safety.

Unfortunately, some facilities fail to maximize the impact of CS Week, instead limiting the focus to a singular, perfunctory potluck or a small celebratory gathering or two amongst CS/SP employees. Although spirited get-togethers in the department are certainly warranted and can help kick off CS Week in a fun and meaningful way, the week can — and should — offer so much more. CS/SP professionals who haven’t already begun planning their CS Week functions still have time — but it’s best to be planning now to ensure the week truly packs a powerful and positive punch.

The International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM) recommends planning a special event for each of the seven days and, ideally, focusing much of the attention on education and initiatives that help foster better interdisciplinary teamwork and outcomes. What follows are some of IAHCSMM’s top tips for making the very most of CS Week — and, at the same time, promoting more positive outcomes throughout the entire year.

* Book the calendar. As early as possible (at least two weeks before CS Week), advertise the department’s planned events and activities. Post signs on common area walls that promise the greatest visibility, such as in break rooms, cafeterias and restrooms — and if the facility offers a newsletter, publish an announcement there. Seek help from the Human Resources department for other ways to spread the word to staff (email announcements and follow-up reminders are one good way, as is including a typewritten announcement or flyer that can be included in employees’ pay stub envelope).

* Go for Lucky Seven. Don’t shortchange this dedicated week of honor! Assign a different activity or event for each of the seven days. Consider kicking off the week with an education-based ice cream social, for example, and invite all hospital customers, infection preventionists and executives to the department to learn more about your team’s daily duties, goals, successes, and challenges. Consider recruiting a representative from the OR or Infection Prevention to share their perspectives on CS/SP’s role in quality and patient safety. Also, conduct daily departmental tours and serve snacks and beverages in approved areas to help draw participants. Encourage participants to don personal protective equipment and actually witness — up close and personal — some of the critical steps in instrument reprocessing. As an additional visual reminder, create poster board presentations with photos and written content to help demonstrate the many steps and attention to detail needed to process instruments (Note: It would be ideal to focus one presentation board on some of the more challenging, sophisticated and difficult-to-clean devices, such as flexible endoscopes and laparoscopic devices.). Also, consider carving out a couple days (or more) for employees across all shifts to participate in IAHCSMM’s educational webinars. The webinar library currently features 21 webinars, each worth 1 continuing education credit. (Visit www.iahcsmm.org/webinars for more information and to gain access to the full webinar library. Once a webinar has been purchased, users will be able to view the content through their IAHCSMM account portal. If membership is in good standing, the cost of each webinar will show as $0 in the shopping cart; simply complete the $0 payment to gain access to the webinars.)

* Liaison for improved learning/outcomes. In advance of CS Week, work with the OR to establish a shared liaison program that allows each department to educate on their needs, requirements and challenges — and the departments can pick a day/time that week that works well for a team-building demo or discussion. Ask the OR how the CS/SP department can better serve them (if instrument set errors are problematic or certain devices aren’t functioning properly, for example, have an interdisciplinary discussion that can help mitigate those problems in the future). Similarly, CS/SP liaisons can provide hands-on instruction on key practices that can help them do their job more effectively and efficiently, such as proper point-of-use instrument care (be sure to share - in writing - the various standards and guidelines that specifically address proper point-of-use care and transport practices). CS Week could also be a perfect time to invite vendor representatives to the facility to test-drive enzymatic products and wetting agents, for example, or other products and services that tie to the interdepartmental education/discussion.

* Capture key moments. Invite someone from the facility’s Corporate Communications/Public Relations department to visit the CS/SP department, take photos of the event, and write an article on the department for the facility’s newsletter (or perhaps even for a press release that can be distributed to local newspapers). While you’re at it, contact the local newspaper to see if they would be interested in writing an article on the department and all that takes place within those walls to help provide safe, high-quality patient care. This is a terrific way to share a success story or two and educate the public on CS/SP’s vital role in patient safety and the delivery of quality care.

* Reward greatness. Pay tribute to staff members who attained certification in the past year or who played a key role in departmental quality improvement efforts and be sure to honor all staff members for their hard work and contributions. This year, IAHCSMM created thank you cards, professional development awards and certificates of appreciation that can be downloaded at no charge, printed, signed by managers and shared liberally with team members. IAHCSMM also created CS Week event invitation letter templates, along with numerous downloadable posters that can help announce CS Week in designated areas of the department and in common areas throughout the facility. To access these downloadable items and discover more CS Week planning ideas, visit www.iahcsmm.org/events/cs-week.html.