SPD and OR Leaders: Don’t Muddle the Huddle

Healthcare workers are often faced with high-stress situations that can contribute to negative patient outcomes and costly monetary impact for the healthcare organization. Sterile Processing departments (SPDs) and Operating Rooms (ORs) are two areas that commonly experience these types of situations; therefore, establishing strong interdisciplinary relationships is critical.

Although the SPD and OR are unique in the services they provide, they share the same goals for patient safety, infection prevention, and successful outcomes. When one department struggles or suffers, the other does as well. Despite the close working relationship and shared goals, friction and tension are common between the two departments—and SPD and OR leaders must work together to build a strong interdisciplinary alliance that meets the organization’s goals and mission and benefits employees, as well as the patients they serve. Leaders who ensure the right staff are involved—with the right skills and processes—are essential when building effective teams.1 

Departmental rounding and staff huddles are two highly effective tactics leaders can implement to ensure all SPD and OR team members are informed of pertinent information that will keep procedures safe and on schedule. 

Collaborating for quality 

Huddles are important because they allow the two departments to share key information that will help avoid issues that could cause delays or other negative situations. Information shared during huddles should be two-way, relevant, and objective. When issues arise, pertinent details should be shared, and solutions should be sought together.

SPDs that play a large role in surgery should ideally have the SP leader (or another professional appointed by the SP leader) meet with surgery at least once daily to review the surgical needs for the day and address any issues or concerns regarding instrumentation or equipment provided by the SPD.2 That information should then be shared with the rest of the SP professionals to ensure everyone understands the needs and priorities. 

Rounding is another powerful tool that, when used properly, builds trust and improved understanding between the departments. When SP team members round in surgical suites before the day’s first case and periodically throughout the day, for example, they see firsthand the issues the surgical team must overcome to keep their day moving and troubleshoot issues in real time. Rounding in the OR is a proactive approach to identifying and resolving potential problems that may arise during procedures. Having SP team members present in the OR makes it possible to quickly address any concerns related to instrument sterilization, supply availability or equipment functionality. They can see firsthand how their work impacts patient care, and how their role ensures that surgical instruments are properly cleaned, assembled, sterilized, stored, and available when needed. 

In addition to troubleshooting, rounding in the OR allows both departmental teams to communicate effectively and build better relationships. By working closely together, employees from both departments can develop a deeper mutual understanding of roles and responsibilities, which can lead to better collaboration. Rounding also helps ensure all necessary resources are available, which reduces stress for both teams, and improves patient care and surgeon satisfaction. 

Likewise, when OR staff spend time in the SPD and become immersed in the complex processes of instrument reprocessing, they gain a clearer perspective of the time and resources needed for each step and, often, and greater respect and appreciation for those who perform the job. 

Being present and listening to concerns firsthand allows SP and OR professionals to ask clarifying questions and respond more proactively instead of reactively. This heightened collaboration strengthens bonds and helps leaders from both departments to identify process issues, solutions, and opportunities for improvement that will positively affect both departments. When healthcare professionals work together, they share their expertise and knowledge, leading to better decision-making. 


Effective collaboration between the OR and SP teams is essential for quality patient service. Open and honest communication is vital in any healthcare setting, especially in these two departments, where time is of the essence and patient safety is a top priority. 

Ensuring effective interdisciplinary teamwork and collaboration can be a complex process; therefore, leaders who ensure the right staff are involved—with the right skills and processes—are essential for building effective teams.1 By fostering collaboration through cross-departmental staff huddles and rounding, healthcare organizations can improve patient outcomes, reduce errors, and enhance operational efficiency. 

1Business Bliss Consultants FZE. “Effective Team Work in Quality Patient Care.” November 2018. https://ukdiss.com/examples/quality-patient-care-team-work.php?vref=1
2. HSPA. Central Service Leadership Manual, Third Ed. 2020.