SPD is critical

March 24, 2022

The 30th anniversary of anything good tends to be special, except maybe if you just turned 30 and finally have to embrace (begrudgingly) the niggling discomfort of this thing called adulthood and leave “adulting” behind.

Honestly, if Neil Sedaka could pen a follow-up to his famous 1960 song, he likely would title it, “Growing Up Is Hard To Do.”

Three decades ago, Hospital Purchasing News (our name just before the Clinton Administration’s healthcare reform sent the industry all atwitter) wanted to recognize a key readership demographic it had been covering since the magazine’s inception as Purchasing Administration back in April 1977 – Central Service. Today, we refer to the profession as Sterile Processing & Distribution (SPD).

And, before we continue, if you do the math, that makes Healthcare Purchasing News 45, which equates to the longest-running, independent and unaffiliated, continually published chronicle of SPD in the industry. With pride, HPN remains the undisputed grandaddy of SPD editorial coverage – even as many have fallen away or emerged and then re-imagined.

In short, you’re holding a piece of history in your hands.

This edition profiles and salutes the 30th recipient of HPN’s SPD Department of the Year Award, NorthShore University HealthSystem. We consider it a proud distinction and we are thankful that so many respect this honor – as well as the concerted and considerable effort that goes into it. That includes crafting and completing a detailed nomination to submit for editorial staffers and editorial advisory board members (who are veteran SPD professionals in their own right), as well as the leader of the previous year’s SPD Department of the Year to read and assess.

When a winner is chosen from a small group of finalists selected from the pool of nominations received (and we read ALL of them), then the leader(s) of that venerable SPD department participates in a series of detailed interviews (30-plus questions minimum) that will serve as fodder for the written profile of the winner. In case you doubt the previous sentence, just ask any leader of an award-winning SPD department (we update the list annually and post it online) and it would be shocking if he or she doesn’t chuckle, harrumph, and roll their eyes in exasperation like after an Olympic-style competition.

It’s that important; it’s that meaningful; it’s that necessary.

We may be biased, but we feel the annual SPD Department of the Year reveals what is best within the industry – beleaguered as it is by a media and public that really does not comprehend or understand the complexities, dedication and stringent adherence to administrative, financial, operational, biological and clinical regulations and requirements. In many cases, failure to comply can lead to death. Outside of random acts of violence, not too many professions can lay claim to such a pressurized existence.

NorthShore, as well as its three respectable and respected finalists – HonorHealth, Stony Brook Medicine, and Terrebonne General Health System (which also happens to be HPN’s first Supply Chain Management Department of the Year Award winner back in 2004) represent SPD quality across the board.

The SPD professionals assessing this year’s quartet of finalists marveled at their focus and resolve as they navigated through crises and other obstacles, such as management changes and operational and process upheaval. All dealt with the pandemic, of course, but one worked through a hurricane. Some chose to excise the use of ethylene oxide sterilization and immediate-use steam sterilization (flashing). They cross-trained people amidst labor shortages, but also strove for career development, diversity, and solidifying teamwork as they progressed.

Through it all, recognize this: These organizations should be celebrated for what they did and do. But they are not alone, nor are they exceptions to the rule. There are many others doing their best work but perhaps receiving little to no recognition.

Change that.

Know this: No matter what anyone says, healthcare cannot exist without Supply Chain and healthcare certainly cannot persist without SPD.