Navigating Change in Sterile Processing

It’s almost that time of the year again—Sterile Processing (SP) Week is around the corner, casting a fleeting spotlight on our critical role in healthcare. While we often desire recognition beyond this limited timeframe, we must recognize that change must begin within ourselves and our departments.

The sentiment of being overlooked can leave us feeling like victims, but history has shown that impactful progress is never achieved by assuming this role. Pity is not our ally, action is. So, how can we initiate the transformation we yearn for, fostering positive recognition and amplifying the value of our daily contributions?

Let’s delve into change management principles from a different perspective and explore how they align with the evolution of sterile processing.

Understand change: defining the shift

To spark change, it’s vital to grasp the current dynamics. We find ourselves seeking recognition not just during Sterile Processing Week, but throughout the year. The quest for validation often leads to a sense of being undervalued—a narrative we need to disrupt. Acknowledge that this mindset limits our potential and inhibits us from creating real change.

Plan change: strategize for impact

The journey toward transformation requires a well-thought-out plan. Instead of waiting for recognition to land in our laps, we must take the initiative to showcase our value. Construct a comprehensive strategy highlighting our contributions, aligning with broader organizational goals, and engaging key stakeholders. If our contributions are not documented and shared with leadership, how can they be expected to have more awareness?

Implement change: action speaks louder

Strategic planning must transition into actionable steps. Embrace a proactive approach to effect change within our departments. Showcase our commitment to excellence, infection control, and patient safety. Champion ongoing education and certification to establish our expertise as invaluable. We know these things well, but how often do we take our actions and make them known? Think about how you communicate your department’s accomplishments so that others know about your efforts.

Communicate change: amplify our voice

Change often falters when communication breaks down. To transform how we’re perceived, effective communication is paramount. Engage in conversations with hospital leadership, articulate our crucial role in the patient care journey, and highlight how a strong sterile processing department bolsters the entire healthcare system.

One way to amplify what you do is to contact your hospital’s marketing team that writes company newsletters and manages social media. The marketing department tends to focus on the heavy lifters in the hospital. Physicians, community outreach, and nurse recognition are great contributors and deserve the spotlight. Yet, sometimes, not sharing what SP does isn’t a negligible offense, it’s simply that they are unaware of all you do.

Here are some suggestions for leadership. Identify who writes the company newsletter and ask how to submit information about your department’s contributions. Once this person is identified, ask them the frequency of the newsletter. Is it biweekly, monthly, or quarterly? Following this knowledge, ask if they are ever looking for submissions and hospital recognition gaps. Would they be open to a quarterly spotlight on what we do in SP?

This is where it can get fun. You likely have an all-star technician in your department looking to rise. You can ask them if they want to write a short piece (ask marketing for a desired word count) once a quarter. They can then brainstorm ideas with coworkers and snap some great photos of the team for the next newsletter. This will make the all-star tech feel valued, and it will stir department excitement in knowing that recognition exists even when it’s not October.

Initiating change: a call to action

Recognizing our value isn’t a responsibility that rests solely on hospital leadership. It’s a call to action for us, individually and collectively. We are the architects of our recognition. By embodying change management principles, we can shift the narrative from overlooked victims to empowered professionals who drive excellence.

As we approach Sterile Processing Week, let’s use this moment as a catalyst for lasting change. Infuse every day with the same passion and dedication we channel this week. The goal isn’t fleeting recognition; it’s the sustained elevation of our profession.

Embrace the change, be the change

The path to recognition and empowerment begins with us. Let’s foster a culture of continuous improvement, learning, and innovation. Collaborate with colleagues, share insights, and engage in open dialogue to uplift our department’s expertise.

It’s time to break free from the victim mentality and pave the way for a new era in sterile processing. Together we can rewrite the narrative by demonstrating our worth through action, communication, and unwavering dedication. Remember, the change we seek begins with our commitment to be the change.

So, SP professionals, let’s rise to the occasion. As we approach Sterile Processing Week, embrace the principles of change management to instigate a lasting transformation within our departments and, consequently, across the healthcare landscape. The recognition we aspire to is within our grasp and starts with each of us.