“It must be nice” is a phrase too commonly heard along the sterile processing professional development journey. While the purpose of this expression is an attempt to make one feel ashamed of something that is coming to fruition, it speaks more clearly of the individual saying it. Envy, disbelief, regret, and misunderstanding are just a few of the feelings that arise when we compare ourselves to what we are seeing. Social media and working with the same peers day in and day out have made the professional progress of others more easily accessible and, dare I say, more critiqueable.

“It must be nice,” when stripped to its core, is just a cover-up for self-comparison. The only information the interpreter has is what that person decides to share about their process. Given that this is hardly enough information to draw any conclusions, gaps in the story are left to be filled by the interpreter’s preconceived notions, biases, and self-perceptions. This casts a discriminatory shadow over anything the individual has done, achieved, and celebrated. All this really reveals is that the inquisitor may have an incomplete understanding of their own professional journey.

 Intentions create clarity

An ill-defined path in one’s professional development journey can be extremely frustrating. While sterile processing technicians may be actively working in their profession, their movement doesn’t necessarily help them reach their own goals. Oddly enough, movement without purpose can make a professional feel stuck because they are essentially running in place. Burnout is inevitable and stagnation sets in. What once inspired us takes a back seat and deep sighs hinder us from breathing any life into our professional aspirations. 

Having a vision of our career future is not enough to propel us into the appropriate actions necessary to achieve it. It is normal to begin working toward our aspirations without a plan, at first; however, incorporating intentionality is key to the longevity and persistence of our commitment to them. 

Preconceived notions

When we initially hear the term “intentional,” we may ascribe negative connotations. Often seen as conniving and sneaky, it is common to believe that we may carry ill will into any intentional situation. Interestingly enough, the countermeasure to the “it must be nice” mindset is to incorporate intentional action into our professional vision to move away from its judgmental mentality. 

Professional intentions challenge us to focus our purpose on what we want to accomplish. By purposely choosing to fix our minds upon what we want, the room for any other outside comparison shrinks. Intentions are meant to serve as a guiding principle for how we need to act in order to move along our professional path. This will create a greater positive patient safety outcome and a more meaningful career. 

Means maker

Sterile processing technicians can be diverted from this practice. The opportunity to slip into the “must be nice” mentality is always available when we compare our progress to others. Being deliberate and dedicated to practicing our professional intentions will take time. This practice is a soft skill—a muscle that will need to be stretched over and over again to grow stronger. 

One way we can assist ourselves during this soft skill conditioning period is to create means for our intentions. Means offer a course of action that can be used to achieve our professional vision. They are quite literally the action to our intentions. As the physical indicators to our success, means indicate milestones and objective achievements. Our means are personal reflections of our own outcomes and end results. They personalize the path we will take to become the sterile processing professional we want to be; thus, truly making it our own. 

Sterile processing is a challenging and tiring profession. With the immense amount of energy we put into patient safety, whatever is left should be turned inward. We deserve to thrive professionally in our careers and to reap the benefits of purposeful intentions. When we begin with professional inspirations that create our aspiration, then incorporate intentions that are supported by means, we create a structure to support our sterile processing professional development journey. The next step? Well, that’s going to require a professional strategy all its own.