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10 Ways Hospitals Put their Patients and Sterile Processing Departments at Risk

Your surgical volume is increasing. The all-star surgeons were successfully recruited from the competitors across town. Your facility earned Magnet status, recently made some kind of US News & World Report Best Hospital list, and you even passed your last accreditation survey.


All is well with the world, right?

Well, not so fast.

Chances are high that there may be unmet needs sitting in plain sight in your facility's CS/SPD department. Even if this team made it through your most recent infection control tracer or tri-annual survey, there may still be issues that need addressing, capital that needs investing, and collaboration that needs implementing. Because many CS problems occur out of sight of perioperative leaders and physically removed from frontline patient care, it can be easy for hospital administrators to underestimate the real scope of their challenges and the fundamental importance they play. Miss something here and the best sterile technique in the world, the most prestigious surgeon, the fastest turnover time in the country will mean nothing. The headline will read "Dirty Surgery," and that's all that will matter to patients in your city.

If you don't want this to happen to you or your facility, take note of these 10 common ways that hospitals can put their patients and Sterile Processing departments at risk -- and commit to fixing them today:

1) Poor Compensation Practices

One of the most ubiquitous challenges facing CS/SPD departments are poor compensation levels compared to the skill of the instrument technician position and the value given by these technicians to quality-based patient outcomes. If your hospital compensation can not compete for the highest quality of CS technicians in your market, you will end up with dangerously unskilled staff, high turnover, and constant quality issues related to this. As Stephen Kovach notes, "Quality doesn't cost, it pays."

2) Lack of Department Leadership/Oversight

Although CS leadership reporting often rolls up underneath perioperative or material management directors, successful leaders of Sterile Processing departments should have particular industry knowledge and regulatory expertise to ensure they can run their departments according to industry best practice. If your facility is large enough for multiple shifts in your CS/SPD, do not neglect creating and hiring the critically important positions that provide supervision to every shift and process managementto the entire team. If you are a health system with multiple CS departments, give strong consideration to creating a System Director role in CS to drive standardization and compliance across your facilities.

3) Nonexistent or Incomplete Data Management

If your CS department does not have a surgical inventory management software, stop reading this list now and start making some phone calls. Do they cost money? Yes they do. And so do lost, stolen, and poorly managed surgical instruments. Discover major surgical site infections on multiple pediatric patients over a two-week period? Which instrument sets were used? Without an inventory management software, your attorneys are going to have a difficult time proving you did your due diligence in protecting these defenseless patients against an insufficient instrument tracking process. Notified of a product recall on specific instrument SKUs? Good luck finding those. Beyond these scenarios, there are also savings in efficiency, optimization, and standardization that are made possible with these must-have CS asset tracking technologies.

4) No Industry Certification