Budget planning? Ensure current standards, continuing education remain a priority

Nov. 22, 2019

Sterile Processing (SP) professionals working without ready access to the most current industry standards, guidelines and recommended practices face the very real possibility of negative outcomes, the most serious of which can include increased risk to patient and employee safety; survey deficiencies, fines and legal liability; and devastating blows to their facility’s reputation.

It’s a message echoed by many experts -- from SP veterans, consultants and The Joint Commission (TJC) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) surveyors to litigators, representatives from healthcare associations and government agencies, and more. Unfortunately, many facilities still lack these critical resources.

As unbelievable as it may seem, some facilities don’t have any version of certain standards. In other cases, facilities may only have outdated versions – such as the 2008 or 2010 version of ANSI/AAMI ST79, Comprehensive Guide to Steam Sterilization and Sterility Assurance in Health Care Facilities, instead of the most current 2017 version. Having current standards on hand and readily accessible to all professionals responsible for instrument processing, care and handling is not just extremely important for the SP department, but also for the entire facility. ST79, for example, is a comprehensive document with valuable information for SP, OR, Infection Prevention, Safety, Risk Management, and Engineering/Facilities Management. Furthermore, surveyors are increasingly well versed on standards such as ST79:2017 and are looking to ensure the healthcare institutions they visit are relying on the most up-to-date standards and guidelines to set policies and ensure their day-to-day practices and operations are performed in accordance with the standards’ recommendations.

Aligning priorities, budgets

Limited budgets are often to blame for the lack of standards in SP departments. To help SP professionals petition their facilities for the most current standards, guidelines and recommended practices needed for quality customer service and patient safety, IAHCSMM drafted a ‘Standards Value Letter,’ a template that SP managers can customize and share with administrators and other executives to help ensure budgetary constraints don’t impede their access to the latest standards.

Because continuing education and professional advancement are also key to SP success and the adoption of best practices that directly impact quality instrument processing, care and handing – and, above all, patient safety – IAHCSMM also created a “Conference Value Letter” to help professionals justify costs and work absences associated with attending off-site educational meetings, whether it’s local chapter events, the IAHCSMM Annual Conference & Expo, or other continuing education opportunities that arise. It’s not uncommon for many SP professionals to pay their own way and tap vacation time to attend such events and programs that greatly benefit the facility.

The Conference Value Letter can help all SP professionals build and present a strong business case to management about the benefits of attending the offsite educational events and programs. It also helps demonstrate why budgeting expenses and time off will deliver significant value to the healthcare organization, as a whole.

As healthcare organizations look to establish budgets for the new year, there’s no better time to request that funds be allocated for these vital resources that will undoubtedly help drive best practices, service quality and patient safety. Note: IAHCSMM encourages SP professionals to keep these value letters on file and modify them, as needed, for future needs, including new standards and SP-related educational programs or endeavors where administrative support is required or beneficial. 

To access IAHCSMM’s free, downloadable value letters, visit: https://www.iahcsmm.org/resource-documents/iahcsmm-standards-value-letter.html and https://www.iahcsmm.org/conference-links/conference-value-letter.html, or visit www.iahcsmm.org and type “value letter” in the search bar.

About the Author

Julie E. Williamson

Julie Williamson is the  IAHCSMM Communications Director.

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Image courtesy of Kat Velez, LeeSar Regional Service Center, Fort Myers, FL, HPN’s 2017 SPD of the Year
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