Active chapter involvement drives quality outcomes, opportunity

Dec. 19, 2019

New and veteran Sterile Processing (SP) professionals who aren’t currently a member of an IAHCSMM chapter – or belong to a chapter but don’t participate to the fullest – should consider stepping up their involvement in the new year. As many chapter members can attest, the efforts can pay big dividends by providing valuable networking and educational opportunities, allowing best practice sharing, and building a stronger sense of pride in the profession.

Currently, there are more than 60 IAHCSMM chapters across 42 states and five countries, a far-reaching presence that provides an overwhelming majority of SP professionals with more direct access to meetings and educational events. Chapter meetings and other educational and social events held throughout the year typically feature well-respected speakers who address a range of pertinent topics impacting the profession. Vendor sponsors and exhibitors are also often available to educate attendees and share their latest product and service offerings. Collectively, chapter involvement affords an opportunity for SP professionals to build enduring relationships with their peers while engaging in satisfying professional development programs that advance the profession and promote continued chapter growth and success.

“Chapters are a great place to share our knowledge and learn from others, but you need to do more than become a member if you want to reap the benefits – you need to participate as much as possible,” said IAHCSMM President Tony Thurmond, CRCST, CIS, CHL, who also serves as SP manager at The Christ Hospital and Health Network in Cincinnati, OH. Thurmond is a Past-President of the Buckeye Central Service Association and has long advocated for improved chapter reach and visibility, and knowledge sharing between chapters to boost member recruitment, participation and education.

Pride and participation

No question, SP professionals are busy and often face tremendous workplace pressure; therefore, it’s no surprise that some individuals might avoid joining chapters and actively participating in their meetings because they don’t want to take time out of their already hectic schedules. But the benefits far outweigh any perceived drawbacks, chapter representatives stress.

Participating in chapter meetings and events provides a golden opportunity for members to learn about hot topics from expert speakers and earn continuing education credits, which can be applied toward IAHCSMM recertification. Additionally, active chapter participation can help members develop valuable new skill sets. This is especially true for those who serve on chapter committees because their various roles can include developing programming and managing resources, enhancing engagement, and gaining more confident in public speaking – all skills that can serve professionals well in their quest to climb the career ladder.

“Being active with my local professional organization has given me many opportunities that, in turn, gave me the desire to become a leader and expand my education in my professional career,” said Larry Guittard, CRCST, Past-President and current Secretary of the Long Island Association of Central Service. Belonging to the chapter provided a sense of belonging that he said placed him in an arena with successful leaders in the field.

“I was able to build up my contacts with professionals who set the standards and recommended practices in my profession, which is the backbone for patient safety. If you want to be a leader, surround yourself by leaders. It’s a win-win situation,” he stressed.

Guittard’s many years with LIACS (and also in his time serving on the IAHCSMM Board of Directors) led to some unexpected advantages, not the least of which included being able to lean on friends and colleagues he’d met over the years -- and in many places throughout the U.S. -- for sound advice and best practices. That benefit was especially valuable during surveys, he noted.

Above all, he said the chapter-level education expanded his skills, knowledge and career, and gave him the confidence to become a role model and mentor. “Education leads to success and is the key to patient safety. Lead by example and reach out to your network of professional friends,” he said. “Those were the tools I brought with me, along with my resume, on every interview as I climbed the career ladder.”

Although education, networking and professional advancement rank high on the list of chapter involvement benefits, there’s another perk that’s no less important: being part of a group of individuals that understands the value of the profession and all who comprise it, and truly takes pride in the discipline. 

“To grow, it takes people getting involved with others who have the same passion for this profession,” said IAHCSMM Board of Directors member Patty Taylor, CRCST, CIS, CHL, CFER, who also serves as Clinical Supervisor of Central Sterile at MHP Medical Center in Shelbyville, IN.

Those who currently have no chapter locally or within their state and wish to start their own will find plenty of information on IAHCSMM’s website. Existing chapters can also offer some valuable assistance – a point that further underscores the upside of networking with professional peers, regardless of their location. The Western Wisconsin Chapter of IAHCSMM, for example, is one large and active group whose members have stated their willingness to share how their chapter got started and how the group provides meetings and educational events that always keep quality and patient safety at the forefront. Many other chapters are willing to assist as well.

For more about the IAHCSMM chapters in your area, visit www.iahcsmm.org/chapters/chapter-listing.html. The chapter section (www.iahcsmm.org/chapters) also offers information on chapter policies and guidelines, resources for forming, managing and rechartering a chapter, as well as a Frequently Asked Questions section, and more.

About the Author

Julie E. Williamson

Julie Williamson is the  IAHCSMM Communications Director.

Photo 77197506 © Korn Vitthayanukarun | Dreamstime.com
Image courtesy of Kat Velez, LeeSar Regional Service Center, Fort Myers, FL, HPN’s 2017 SPD of the Year
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