In this issue of Off the Shelf we will be discussing an often-ignored cost center that is left alone until it becomes the elephant in the room - something no one can continue to overlook. Sterile Processing is not a particularly popular area of focus, but it warrants a closer look at most healthcare facilities for two reasons:
1. The Joint Commission has revised its focus in the OR, and this new direction includes a thorough review of Sterile Processing procedures
2. It can be the source of a number of unnecessary hospital expenditures, and thus it presents a number of cost savings opportunities
Don’t work with Sterile Processing? Read on for tips you can apply to other ancillary departments such as laboratory.
6 Signs You Have a Sterile Processing Problem (with 6 solutions!)
1. Communication with the OR
If the Sterile Processing Department (SPD) and the OR have conflict and finger pointing ensues then this is a clear sign trouble is brewing. How do you know if this is the case? Ask OR nurses, surgeons: "When was the last time you interacted with the SPD, and why?"
• Assign an OR liaison to work with specialty leaders to foster better communication
• Invite staff to attend the other department’s staff meetings
• Work with both departments to ensure instrumentation needs are being met
2. High Use of Flash Sterilization
Flash sterilization should not be a first-resort process. The Joint Commission is refocusing its survey efforts on flash sterilization with a recently updated survey process that will keep a close eye on steam sterilization. High use of flash sterilization is often a symptom of a larger problem. For example, OR staff may not trust that Sterile Processing prepares instruments properly or in a timely manner.
• Track down the source of the problem as this may be caused by some of the other issues we are discussing such as poor communications or operational problems in the SPD
3. Staff Turnover
Low retention can lead to slower turnaround times in Sterile Processing, an understaffed Sterile Processing Department and an increase in improperly sterilized instrumentation . This ultimately results in Sterile Processing delaying on-time starts in the OR.
• Staff turnover in Sterile Processing is inevitable, but you should ensure that you are retaining a key group of veterans. If you have a strong, experienced manager he/she can both help mitigate turnover and ensure high-quality training
4. Lack of Quality Assurance Program
Your organization should have an oversight and training system in place for Sterile Processing staff that includes continuing education and/or certification with a governing body (e.g. IAHCSMM ). Cross training and staff knowledge of processes both within and outside of Sterile Processing are a must.
• Provide in-services and hands-on training. Ask vendors to provide them for their products to ensure staff is up-to-date on the latest techniques
• Double-check that Sterile Processing is performing all of its necessary functions (not limited to sterilization) including instrument testing for functionality and sharpness
• Ensure your Policies & Procedures are up-to-date with the latest standards and guidelines and that your staff has a working knowledge of them
5. Insufficient Sterile Processing Capacity
This is an instance where an investment may be necessary: The reality is that you cannot run a profitable Surgery Department with inadequate space or equipment in Sterile Processing.
• Whether it is an experienced manager or a consulting firm, have someone analyze your current capacity
• Be sure to take into account your growth patterns and surgical volume changes to anticipate future capacity. Also if you decide to use a third party for assistance make sure that they are unbiased (i.e. not vendors!)
6. Not Enough Instrument Sets
When you take on a new surgeon and he or she is successfully adding cases you need to ensure you are also looking at the number and composition of instrument sets.
• This is a problem that really goes both ways whether you are increasing or decreasing in volume. Regularly evaluate your trays as you would (or at least should!) do with all materials
Need management or educational assistance in your Sterile Processing Department? Know you have a Sterile Processing problem, but not sure where to start?Contact Us.
Soyring has strong expertise operationally running and problem solving within Surgical Services and Sterile Processing. Click for an overview of how Soyring tackles Sterile Processing problems.