"Go out and dominate the Sterile Processing universe!"
That's what I would tell my technicians at the end of every shift huddle, every staff meeting, and every time I got the honor of standing in front of them to speak on the importance of our mission of safe patient care through excellent Sterile Processing services.
But if you've been an SPD leader for more than five minutes, you know that getting all members of the team to "buy-in" to the larger mission and vision of your department is not an easy feat. However, cultivating a team full of these mission-believers is one of the most important things you could be doing as an SPD leader. If you get this right, you can see transformation of your teams and individuals that you would have never dreamed possible. Attitude, teamwork, trust, customer service, professionalism, enthusiasm. All of this is impossible without men and women who know, understand, and apply the larger mission of your department.
So where do you start? How do you stop reacting to the mountain of work and start climbing the mountain of mission? Here are four crucial tips to help you begin cultivating mission-believers in your department today:
1) Take a Page from Gutenberg: Make the Mission Known
Few inventions changed the world like Johannes Gutenberg's printing press, which arrived on the scene in the year 1440. Among the biggest impacts of this new invention was the ability to get information and ideas out to the masses, which broke down barriers between the elite and working class of the time. And if you ever want to get your team in CS/SPD working together for a common goal, you need to take a page from Gutenberg and make the mission known. On the practical level, this means your mission statement has to become more than a dusty sheet of paper on a bulletin board in the corner of your office. Your people have no hope for believing in a mission they do not know, and they cannot know it if you do not make it known. Print it off, include it with interview packets, onboarding folders, 90-day evals, annual competencies, and promotion applications. Post it in visible areas of the department and include sections of it in each staff meeting. In short, let your mission become the air your department breathes, and the stuff your department reads.
2) Lead your Leaders: "The Mission Mirror"
Whether your leadership team consists of an army of one or you have a full regiment of front line supervisors, specialists, and managers -- mission success starts at the top. Your team cannot get anywhere if they don't know where they are supposed to be going, and if your leaders don't know that, those whom they are leading have no hope. Self consciously demonstrate the type of mission-impacted leadership you want your frontline leaders to give to your teams. If you claim to value "growth" in your department, but you consistently refuse to give your supervisors opportunities to learn new skills and take on new responsibilities, don't be surprised if they seem to be unmoved by your token nod to the department mission statement. Your technicians will reflect the passion (or lack thereof) of their upline leaders, so for mission-conversion to be successful, every leader on the team must become a mission mirror, a veritable walking, talking example of what you want your department to grow into.
3) Small Doors and Swords: Find and Equip Your Mission Warriors
Let's tackle the small door first. If you want a team of mission-believers, the last thing on earth you want to do is let a new team member in the door who can't or won't live up to your mission. More mistakes are made on this one point than almost any other. I know it's hard to find quality candidates (here are a few tips on that topic), but do not be tempted to settle for immediate boots on the ground, if those boots could mean months of mission-challenges for your team. Small doors (i.e. mission-driven recruiting, interviewing, and hiring practices) mean a better chance for mission success.
Now for the swords. One of your greatest weapons against the mediocrity-virus plaguing your department are those team members who have already bought in and become mission-believers themselves. Encourage and empower these folks to cut off any complaining, gossiping, or drama that they encounter in the department. Make it clear that an expectation of the department is enthusiastic support of mission-application at all levels, and publicly and privately encourage those who buy into this vision early on.
4) Hard Hats and Concrete: Make the Mission Tangible
Finally, don't underestimate the power of highlighting concrete examples of your mission-in- action for your team. This means taking every opportunity available to make all those lofty words and ideals mean something real to your people, something they can almost touch. If someone went above and beyond to locate an instrument for a physician, or took it upon themselves to coordinate the borrowing of a surgical tray from another facility -- make it a point to recognize that person publicly, and then make the mission-connection for your people: "We want to shout-out Bascal today for highlighting our department value of "communication" by following-up with the Northeast clinic about returning their surgical set." The more times you are able to take real life situations and point your team back to the mission blueprint, the easier it will be for your folks to understand and own the mission for themselves.
Change is hard. But dramatic and transformational change is possible. I have seen SPD departments undergo such fundamental and positive changes that an entire surgical services and facility feel the impact and are moved by their department mission. Believe it or not, there's no reason why your SPD department couldn't be THE formative epicenter for a revival of mission-mindedness for your entire health system. In fact, what you do in the basement of your facility in the middle of Montana can change an entire industry. You just need to remember, teach, and cultivate in your people two things:
One person on a mission makes a majority.
And there is no such thing as mission: impossible.
Beyond Clean © 2020
Hank Balch is the Founder and President of Beyond Clean. You can follow him on Instagram @WeFightDirty, and find his Fighting Dirty video series on YouTube. He is an international thought leader and has written over 150 other Sterile Processing articles and commentary, along with published articles in Becker's Hospital Review, Infection Control Today, AAMI News, AAMI BI&T Journal, Outpatient Surgery Magazine, and contributions to Healthcare Purchasing News. Hank's CS/SPD team in Louisville, KY was named the "2016 CS/SPD Department of the Year" by HPN. He has also served as the founding President of the South Texas Association of Sterile Processing Services and President of the Kentuckiana IAHCSMM Chapter, in additional to being nominated for the 2017 President-Elect & 2018 President-Elect of the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management.