Sterile processing is a critical component in ensuring the safest patient care before, during, and after surgical procedures. The healthcare industry is constantly changing. Medical practices are becoming more complex, and technology is ever-evolving. Therefore, sterile processing departments (SPD) must ensure they have proper tools, functional equipment, and educated and certified staff. However, sterile processing is an essential component across healthcare facilities that is often overlooked.
What is Sterile Processing?
Sterile processing involves cleaning, inspecting, disinfecting, and sterilizing surgical medical equipment. This is a critical step in ensuring that healthcare facilities provide the safest patient care. The process that an instrument undergoes depends on its use and material construction. There can be up to seventeen required steps for one piece of equipment to ensure proper sterile processing.
The Challenges of Sterile Processing
When it comes to sterile processing, there are many challenges that healthcare facilities face due to a lack of education, extensive training, and adequate resources. Another big issue stems from the medical equipment’s design because it makes devices challenging to clean, disinfect, and sterilize.
Loaning instruments is becoming more prevalent in the healthcare industry, particularly for implant technology. The instrumentation is expensive, and healthcare facilities are prohibited from purchasing it upfront since it requires costly technology upgrades regularly. This practice affects sterile processing because loaner instruments are becoming more complex. Still, there’s a substantial lack of education on how to process them, and they often arrive on short notice.
Additionally, loaner instruments require twice as much processing time, but 25-30% of them don’t end up getting used, which eats up valuable time. This leads to another issue, which is the time allocated for surgical teams to process. Many healthcare facilities don’t account for the processing volume increase, which can significantly extend the time needed to process instruments before surgery. As a result, sterile processing departments don’t have enough staff to keep up with the increasing demand.
When a critical component such as sterile processing gets overlooked, technicians make careless mistakes that compromise patient safety. One of the most prevalent mistakes is rushing through the process. Often, they get so caught up in trying to get things done quickly that they cut corners and don’t follow every step required. Additionally, sterile technicians may not receive adequate training to understand how they should process each piece of equipment. Therefore, they don’t know that they can disassemble complex equipment to clean properly. Another commonality that leads to sterile processing mistakes is uncertified staff. It’s recommended that healthcare facilities require their team get certified because an extra layer of education and training can make a significant difference in sterile processing procedures.
The Future of Sterile Processing
The steps that healthcare facilities take will shape the future of sterile processing. Healthcare facilities must establish adequate academic credentials before processing technicians can walk through their doors. It’s also imperative to require hands-on training to support their education and training to ensure the highest quality and patient safety.
Sterile Processing Consulting
We’re committed to understanding the needs of your hospital and OR team so we can seamlessly and effectively provide the safest, highest quality outcome for the patient. We establish benchmarks for your department to track clear signs of progress towards higher quality services and compliance, including tray errors, cart errors, IUS Rate and case delays.
We also conduct ongoing audits and assessments to guarantee continuous compliance and improvement. The SpecialtyCare University training received by our consultants, our medical office, our research team, and deployment of Lean Six Sigma Process Improvement, delivers higher staff satisfaction and productivity in your OR.
Sterile processing consulting is designed to bring out the best in your OR and throughout your hospital. We work closely with sterile processing department management and OR leaders to deliver reliable SPD staff performance through a unique approach that minimizes infection, lost instruments, late starts, incomplete trays, and surgeon frustration. The ultimate result is an improvement in teamwork between departments and overall patient outcomes. At SpecialtyCare, we understand that the sterile processing department plays a very important role in the overall success of your hospital and that every member of the team is key to that success. That’s why we are devoted to delivering SPD staff training, education, and process improvement to transform your department into one of the nation’s leading programs.
Click here for more information regarding how SpecialtyCare can help improve the efficiency of your sterile processing department.
SpecialtyCare is a people company, dedicated to providing an exceptional patient experience, becoming the OR employer of choice, and leading the way in OR innovation.