A first-of-its-kind study from the Healthcare Sterile Processing Association (HSPA) Foundation and Ofstead & Associates, Inc. involved the development and testing of an innovative and comprehensive training program for frontline Sterile Processing (SP) professionals. The findings revealed that the training model helped trainee participants master complex skills, retain knowledge and take actionable steps to address issues identified during borescope inspection of endoscopes.

The study, “Improving mastery and retention of knowledge and complex skills among sterile processing professionals: A pilot study on borescope training and competency testing,” was published in the March 2023 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. It involved a diverse group of dedicated, certified SP professionals who embraced the opportunity to gain new skills that are essential due to updated standards and guidelines that recommend visual
inspection with magnification be performed for every endoscope, each time the devices are processed.

Combination training approach

The training approach involved a combination of lecture and hands-on practice sessions guided by experts and incorporates pre-testing, post-testing, homework assignments, and a learning booster session to enhance the learning experience and cement the trainees’ new knowledge and skills. The study showed that not only did trainees master complex content, their confidence and ability to assess risks and take appropriate action based on findings from their visual inspection of endoscopes also increased.

“We knew the importance of quality training on positive processing outcomes, but the results from this study far exceeded our expectations,” said HSPA Foundation President Mark Duro. “The eye-opening findings shed a bright light on the importance of comprehensive, multi-modality training. Having the ability to use learned skills to improve instrument inspection and processing outcomes is critically important to patient safety and infection prevention.”

The study’s lead researcher, Cori L. Ofstead, MSPH, was also surprised and excited by the findings. Although she and her research team expected the intensive training program would improve trainees’ knowledge and visual inspection skills, she was pleased to see that all participants made significant improvements in their mastery of complex skills.

Clinical relevance

“What really surprised us is that they went back to their facilities, practiced their new skills, and submitted homework assignments that knocked it out of the park,” noted Ofstead. She explained that all trainees identified visible defects that couldn’t be seen without proper use of borescopes and lighted magnification—and then they took action—like recleaning and sending defective endoscopes for repair—to address the situation. “This gave the new training program true clinical relevance, which is something I have never seen before—training that immediately resulted in action by the trainees that improved the quality of care in tangible ways and reduced risks for patients.”

The new training program was made possible by support from the Hunter Family Charitable Fund, Agiliti Health, Agiliti Health – Denver Repair Lab, Clarus Medical, Healthmark Industries, STERIS PLC, and STERIS Instrument Management Services (IMS), in partnership with HSPA and the HSPA Foundation. HSPA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) educational foundation and donations may be tax-deductible as charitable contributions, but sponsoring organizations did not receive any tangible benefits in exchange for their donations.

Ofstead conducted this study independently and the corporate sponsors were not involved in designing or conducting the study, interpreting the findings, or preparing any
manuscripts or presentations. The success of this program is due to the dedication and hard work of the trainees, and we are grateful for their participation.

For more inforamtion, visit Healthcare Sterile Processing Association (HSPA).

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