Author: Harry Mullen MBA, CRCST, CIS, CHL, CER
Sponsor: oneSOURCE Document Management Services
During slow time in a sterile processing department, the hospital often times resorts to cutting back on staff in order to save money. But is this the right thing to do? We have to ask ourselves, is the training in the department up to the standards that it needs to be? Has the opportunity to take the staff and the department to the next level even been a thought on the minds of the leaders? Probably yes, but not at this time. What is the true cost of not having the employees take this occasion to better their knowledge and skills?
It is my belief that instead of sending the staff home in order to save a buck here and there, we should avail ourselves with this time given to educate the members of our group and to increase their knowledge in the standards that serve our industry. What is that you may ask? Well let me answer that with a question. Does your team and perhaps yourself have a good grasp on what it takes to have a department that is the rule not the exception? Do you and your coworkers have what it takes? What does it take to be a shining beacon in an industry that is struggling to keep its doors open, especially during survey time? Well lets start off by asking, how well do you, your coworkers and leaders understand the AAMI standards? How many times during a survey does the inspector ask you or any staff why they are doing what they are doing? The last time the surveyor was in your department, did they ask to see a copy of ST79? When you brought it out, was it marked/tagged with posted notes indicating all the times that you and your staff viewed it? Or did you have to wipe of the dust from it, showing that in fact, once it was placed on the shelf, it never got picked up?
Hospital leadership is doing a disservice not only to the staff and department, is it a disservice to the customer and community by not enforcing the very guidelines that measure a departments excellence.
It is during the down times that you can take advantage of perhaps catching up on competencies, scheduling in-services with vendors. As SPD technicians we are aware of what it is we do, but at times feel they are forced or perhaps are willing to take short cuts because we do not necessarily understand the why behind what they do.
As sample of what should be gone over with staff are such things like learning the standards like:
- TIR34 that covers water for the processing of medical devices. This technical report covers the selection and maintenance of effective water quality suitable for reprocessing medical devices. It provides guidelines for selecting the water quality necessary for the reprocessing of categories of medical devices and addresses water treatment equipment, water distribution and storage, quality control procedures for monitoring water quality, strategies for bacterial control, and environmental and personnel considerations.
- ST79 is the primary document used by surveyors for the basis of recommended practices for a central service department. By the staff knowing its content, they are assured and are able to speak of the design and functional flow of the department. Are able to talk about the personal considerations such as the qualifications of what it takes to be a superior central processing technician and what to look for as to the abilities of the management team. It gives guidance an training and continuing education to maintain their certifications as well as the functionality of the department. Each and every AAMI standard is an integral part of a high functioning department and team.
As the manager of the department, this valuable training time allows you to explore each process and section of the department. This includes the proper training of the CSSD customers like the operating room, Labor & Delivery as well as other ancillary departments. What are these other departments doing and how does it affect the flow of the CSSD? Point of Use Processing is a problem that all CS departments experience. The customers often do not know how much of an impact they have on operations to the point of delaying the reprocessing of their own instruments and supplies as well as other customer departments. Until this avenue is explored, the SPD will never truly function as it is meant to do. So why during this critical down time would you not explore the possibility of training the customers in order to improve the efficiency of the department?
Now I know what you as the reader is possibly thinking at this point. These are all good ideas, but I cannot possibly do training the entire time. Upper management at some point is going to want to cut back on staff in order to save money. There is no possibility of convincing my director and their boss that this brings value over all to the department.
So this leads me to a subject that will open up their minds to the possibility of a project that brings value added not only to the hospital but to the end customer as well. PROCESS IMPROVEMENT.
Now how does process improvement fit in with training? As we all know, hospitals are paying a fortune in having consultants come in and train managers and support staff learn the concept of lean six sigma. I myself have taken part where the company had trained members of human resources to train managers and leads from each department. I am sure that perhaps you, the reader has gone through the training. Now for the answer to the question. Process improvement gives you the opportunity to bring in a group of the SPD staff as well as the user departments to take this time to fix problems that have been the cause of tension between the each other. The training part comes in when you reach out to HR and ask for a specialist to come in and lead a team in a project that will improve the workflow that everyone has a part to play in. Not all participants have gone through the training of lean. That’s the learning part. The value added is fixing the issues that up till now, no one has had the time to get together and fix it.
Now for the Continuing Education Units. It is important for CS leaders to log this training and the time it took so that the staff may get credit in order for them to submit to their association that maintains gives them their current certifications. This needs to be sent in usually on an annual basis. We need to support out technicians in maintain their certification. This is a source of pride and recognition.
I could go on with many other suggestions. In closing I want to leave you with this one piece of information. As we enter into hard time that effect the hospital and our customers, “The Patient”, we need to not waist an opportunity that has been presented to us. Move forward with optimism. Don’t let a situation, whether it is a local one or a global one, get away from you. Take this moment to improve the CSSD and make it an example for all to follow.