Sterile Processing Week

Sept. 28, 2021
Thoughtful planning sets stage for long-term benefits

There are many more reasons to celebrate Sterile Processing Week (Oct. 10-16) than just food, beverages, decorations, games and an educational inservice or two added to the mix. While those all have a welcomed place in Sterile Processing departments (SPDs) during the course of the honorary week, proper planning can yield far-reaching perks that benefit the team in big ways—long after October draws to a close.

Over the years, many SP professionals have shared with the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM) how their advanced and thoughtful Sterile Processing Week planning led to greater recognition and understanding of the SPD’s hard work and critical contributions to patient care (from not only the departments they serve but those in the C-suite). Often, that garnered improved employee satisfaction and interdisciplinary teamwork, and in some cases, even healthier budgets, to ensure SP professionals have the vital resources needed to manage their daily responsibilities effectively, efficiently and safely.

Open invitations close gaps

Sterile Processing Week affords the opportunity to bridge disciplinary gaps and demonstrate firsthand the skills, hard work and diligence required to meet customer demands and promote positive patient outcomes. Getting there requires SPD leadership to invite representatives from these other departments to participate in Sterile Processing Week events. Ideally, this will include departmental tours and SP-led education to demonstrate all that goes into every processed instrument, from decontamination to sterilization, preparation and packaging, storage, and delivery for patient use.

“Developing better relationships with administrators and those in infection prevention, surgical services and beyond is very important,” stressed Damien Berg, BA, BS, CRCST, AAMIF, IAHCSMM’s VP of Strategic Initiatives. He explained that forging more fruitful relationships with the C-Suite, for example, helps them better understand and even visualize the vital role of the SP technician and the value that well-trained, certified and competent staff members in the SPD bring to the organization. And it can begin with a simple conversation and invitation during SP Week.

That approach has worked well for the SPD at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls. According to the facility’s SP manager, Jan Prudent, BA, CRCST, CIS, CHL, the department hosts open houses that blend refreshments with “Did You Know?” fact sheets to spotlight the various processes within the department, and the SPD’s many accomplishments. All senior leaders within the facility are invited to participate, along with surgeons and other staff members from the Operating Room and other hospital units. Prudent and her SPD team also celebrate the governor’s proclamation for Sterile Processing Week. The  organization’s senior leadership participates by including a copy of the proclamation and a brief explanatory writeup for the hospital’s newsletter. The SPD’s certified employees are also recognized in the newsletter. Beyond that, bulletin boards are posted around the facility to showcase the SPD’s successes and the many ways the department’s professionals impact patient care and patient safety.

“A congratulatory email is sent out to SPD staff, OR leadership and the C-suite, and the email goes ‘viral’ with everyone chiming in  with their appreciation of the accomplishments,” Prudent said. “Our CEO seems to always be the first to respond.”

In Hartford, Conn., the SPD at the Bone & Joint Institute at Hartford Hospital carves out time to celebrate Sterile Processing Week but is wholly dedicated year-round to drumming up broad, facility-wide support and recognition for its hardworking team. As Education Coordinator, Sarah B. Cruz, CRCST, CHL, CSPDT, noted that the SPD adopted a targeted education program to raise the profile of the SPD across all hospital leaders. She explained how the facility’s chief surgeon—a loyal SPD advocate—helped her launch a program to enhance the relationship and teamwork between the two departments. Under this program, the SPD chooses one doctor per month and works to address their instrumentation concerns.

For other SPDs who might be struggling to gain similar support and attention from their facility’s leaders, Cruz reminds that solid, well presented data is essential. “You need to document your department’s successes and track the progress and challenges along the way.”

Whether SP professionals already have strong partnerships with those in the OR, infection prevention and the C-suite or are still hoping to make those breakthroughs, Berg reminds that Sterile Processing Week is the perfect opportunity to open those doors.

“When I served as regional manager for UCHealth in Northern Colorado, we found that celebrating Sterile Processing Week led to year-long recognition of our department and staff, Cruz said.” Each month, the department recognized one employee for their contributions to the team, event participation and dedication to quality, safety and customer service, he said.

 “Every SPD should take time to honor their team and profession during Sterile Processing Week, and I strongly encourage that they plan well to make the most of each of those days. But we shouldn’t limit recognition and acknowledgments to just that one week,” Berg said. “The real benefits come when it’s an ongoing endeavor.”

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
261278015 © Александр Лебедько | Dreamstime.com