Each year, beginning the second Sunday of October and continuing through the following Saturday, Sterile Processing Week provides a perfect opportunity to honor the profession, increase understanding and recognition of the discipline’s vital contributions, and get creative regarding education, knowledge growth, and event planning.
This year, the Healthcare Sterile Processing Association (HSPA) elevated its Sterile Processing Week offerings with its first-ever Symposium on Sterile Processing & Infection Prevention. This joint virtual educational and networking event with Healthcare Hygiene magazine launched during the week of honor and is now available on-demand for registered participants through December 31.
Outstanding educational sessions
Six outstanding educational sessions were provided at no cost to SP professionals and presented by some of the most respected speakers in the industry, including: Cori L. Ofstead, MSPH, president and CEO of Ofstead & Associates (“Elevating Skills and Safety for Sterile Processing Personnel”); Sylvia Garcia-Houchins, MBA, RN, CIS, director, infection prevention and control surveyor for The Joint Commission’s Ambulatory Program (“The Joint Commission Survey Process”); HSPA’s director of education Natalie Lind, CRCST, CHL, FCS (“Education: Your Greatest Tool”); sterile processing leaders Sharon Greene-Golden, BA, CRCST, CER, FCS (“As a Professional in the SPD, What Do You Bring to the Table?”), Anthony Bondon, BSM, AASAE, CRCST, CHL, and Monique Jelks, MSOL, BA, CRCST (“Leveraging the Power of Education and Working with Hospital Leadership to Improve the SPD”); and infection preventionist Jill Holdsworth, MS, CIC, FAPIC, CRCST, NREMT, manager, infection prevention at Emory University Hospital Midtown (“Celebrating the Infection Prevention & Sterile Processing Partnership”).
As is evident by the topics, the sessions delivered inspiring messages about professionalism, collaboration, and the need for strengthened relationships between SP professionals and organizational leaders and infection preventionists.
“Quality and positive outcomes in sterile processing do not happen in a vacuum; they require involvement and engagement across various disciplines to ensure that safe, best-practice-based processes are effectively and consistently followed, and SP technicians have the support they need to perform their essential duties to their best ability each day,” said Lind. “With this virtual event, we were able to celebrate the profession in some of the most meaningful ways— through quality continuing education, networking, and interdisciplinary participation and recognition.”
Aside from the educational sessions, the event platform provided participants with additional inspiring content, including a video with executive leaders from a large Colorado health system. For the video, Damien Berg, BA, BS, CRCST, AAMIF, HSPA’s vice president of strategic initiatives, spoke with Ryan Rohman, chief operating officer of University of Colorado Health Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins and Loveland-based UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies, and Ashley Bruning, UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital chief nursing officer, about SP-related challenges and opportunities and the importance of recognizing SP professionals’ many valuable contributions to patient safety and infection prevention.
“Coming up in my profession through the years, I worked side by side with [Rohman and Bruning] as managers, but then as their careers expanded, they became executives who understand sterile processing and what we go through,” said Berg, who spent years as SP manager for UCHealth and then in a regional manager role for the health system prior to joining the HSPA team in 2021.
UCHealth has made a concerted effort to increase its SP professionals’ job satisfaction and quality output by establishing and building upon the career ladder and promoting certification and continuing education to elevate knowledge, expertise, and professionalism.
“[The SPD is] a department that holds such a key to the operating room and the safety of our patients,” said Bruning. She explained that, over time, UCHealth created new opportunities and excitement for its SP techs, including making certification of SP technicians a requirement—a benefit not only for SP employees’ personal and professional growth, but also for the success of the entire organization. In recent years, UCHealth expanded its SPD clinical ladder, which now includes multiple tiers: Sterile Processing Associate, an individual who shows interest but may lack professional experience (“We want to teach them and help them gain the knowledge they need to become certified and succeed in the role,” Bruning said); Certified Technician; Senior Technician, a certified employee that seeks to assume a more senior leadership-type position; and, finally, the Supervisor role. “We want to continue to create opportunities to expand their knowledge. It is extremely important that we have strong expertise and engagement in our sterile processing department,” she noted.
Rohman added that UCHealth is keenly focused on creating a culture of appreciation for its SP workforce. “I don’t know that I really understood the importance of sterile processing over my entire career,” he recalled. In fact, it wasn’t until he had the opportunity to become the director of perioperative services that he became more immersed in the essential roles and contributions from SP professionals, and the challenges they routinely face.
“Through a lot of shadowing of [various] departments and going into the SPD for the first time—and wearing all the personal protective equipment in decontam, watching everything go through the washers, resetting all the trays, and seeing the level of expertise and detail of that staff—I quickly came to understand that if things aren’t going well in the SPD and the level of detail and commitment from the workforce isn’t there, you’re going to have major problems in the OR and with other patients as it relates to infection prevention and instrumentation. [The SPD] is the foundation to the organization and the success it will have.”
Honored and celebrated
It’s a powerful and inspiring message HSPA hopes all healthcare organizations and facility executives embrace, not just during Sterile Processing Week, but all year long.
“Sterile Processing Week should be honored and celebrated with great thought and attention each year,” Berg reminded, “but the biggest, most impactful changes for the department and profession come when C-suite executives and departmental leaders take time to learn more about the SPD’s critical roles and responsibilities and commit to ensuring their technicians and SP leaders have the recognition, support, education, and understanding they need to deliver the best service possible.”
[Author’s note: Facility and SP leaders looking for creative, eye-catching ways to promote the SPD and its team can print HSPA’s free, customizable, and downloadable posters, thank-you cards, and certificates of recognition. Although the 2022 templates launched during Sterile Processing Week, many facilities access and display them year-round. To access the templates, visit their Sterile Processing Week page.] Note: Registered participants for the 2022 Symposium on Sterile Processing & Infection Prevention may continue to access the event platform through 9 p.m. Central time on Dec. 31, 2022, using the link in their original event registration confirmation email. Registrants are encouraged to view the sessions in their entirety and take the continuing education (CE) tests (look for the QR codes at the end of the sessions) to earn up to six CEs for SP professionals and nurses. Please be sure to take the CE tests before the Dec. 31 closing date (CEs are valid through Oct. 13, 2024). The event has reached full registrant capacity; however, the educational sessions may also be viewed on the Healthcare Hygiene magazine website at 2022 Symposium on Sterile Processing & Infection Prevention Sessions Encore (through Dec. 31, 2022).