Five Recruiting Pools You Didn't Know Existed: How to Find Aces for Your SPD Places



Finding the right people for the job is 90% of the battle for Sterile Processing excellence. Sure, you need to have adequate training, smooth processes, and a common goal -- but if you have all that without great people, well, we all know what that looks like. And it's not pretty.


But where do you go to find these "greatlings"? How do you dig up these jewels of decontam productivity? These gems of prep/pack prowess? These sparkling diamonds in the sterilization rough? 


To paraphrase the prophetic words of Flannery O'Connor, "A good man [or woman] is hard to find." And that couldn't be truer than in the Sterile Processing world. Recruiting high quality techs in our industry is quite the challenge, and one that many hospital recruiters just aren't equipped to handle without help from SPD leaders. Our candidate pools can easily get lumped in with transporters, patient care assistants, or environmental service workers -- but our needs are very different from those teams. So, if you want to get the best recruits on the market, you often have to take matters into your own hands. 


Here are five recruiting pools that you may not realize could be holding your next Sterile Processing all-star:


1) Nursing and Surgical Tech Schools


I know what you're thinking. "If they're in nursing school, they want to be a nurse -- not an SPD tech." And you'd be half right. Most students in nursing school do end up becoming nurses one day. However, a fair number of folks who start nursing or surgical technology schools don't finish, for reasons ranging the spectrum from lack of finances to the shocking realization that they don't really enjoy the sight of blood. But regardless of whether or not they finish their original program, some of the best SPD recruits in your area can be found looking for part-time or PRN jobs while they are going through their training program. These are bright, driven folks who want to get their foot in the door at a local hospital, and they have a vested interested in doing a good job for you to gain your reference for future RN/CST positions. If you can get a 2-3 year commitment out of them, it could be worth it to you to bring them on board. 


2) Graduate School / College


Another great pool of potential aces can be found at your local grad school or college campus. Many of these folks are looking to get some kind of industry "skill," something that they can take with them wherever they go, whatever they end up doing when they "grow up."


The SPD world offers something for them that many other 'college jobs' don't -- shift work (to fit their classes in), higher than minimum wage pay, benefits, certification, and sometimes even tuition assistance. If you intentionally recruit out of this pool, you can often end up with high performing, analytical, creative, problem solvers who can help you tackle some of the process problems we all struggle with. If you want a little help with your budget, you might even want to set up a recruiting table outside of the business school and try to draft an accounting major. I'm not even kidding. 


3) Job Coordinators for Veterans


Our vets are an under-served and over-qualified population in many areas, but they are often some of the hardest working recruits you will ever come across. Timeliness, self-discipline, and teamwork come second nature to these folks, and if you can make the case for how an entry-level SPD position can give them opportunity to climb up the clinical ladder, they can become some of the strongest members of your team. In addition to vets, organizations who support them often help spouses of active-duty military find positions as well. We have been able to scoop up military spouses through this pipeline, and have been very impressed by their quality of work and commitment to excellence. Reach out to your local job coordinator for vets, give them your starting pay and job description, and see what happens.  


4) Refugee Support Organization


If your facility is near a large urban center, chances are good that there is some kind of refugee placement organization not too far from you. These groups help new immigrants find housing, learn English (if necessary), adapt to life in a new country, and connect with employment opportunities. And they are often a fantastic partner to find great talent for your SPD team. Over the years I've interviewed Syrian maxillofacial surgeons, Iraqi electrical engineers, and earnest working moms from the Congo (just to name a few). We currently have a Cuban cath-lab nurse working in one of our SPD's, who just needed a few years to study for the US boards so they could get back into the nursing field. As with the previous recruiting pools, you often have just as much to offer them as they have to offer you. Your team can get highly-trained, eager team members, and they get an opportunity to step into the American healthcare field. It's a win-win all the way around.


5) Chick-fil-A (or Something Like It)


If you were tracking with me so far, this might have been the first, "Hmmm, let me think about that," moment you've had. But not so fast.



As I argued last fall in a post on customer service excellence, why not recruit out of the place in your city that has the best philosophy of customer service? It could be difficult for you to compete for top talent in many service sectors, but fast food is one area where SPD leaders can make a provocative case for leaving the drive thru and joining the fight against frustrated physicians and time-sensitive instrument deliveries. The key here is: not just any fast food joint will do. You want to key-in on those companies who share similar visions of excellence as you do before trying to recruit their best and brightest to join your team. For many cities, those high performers are at Chick-fil-A. For you, it may be the local Waffle House or main-street diner. My point is, be on the look out for those service-oriented folks who 'wow' you when your picking up your dinner, and slip them your business card before you leave. 



Great teams don't just happen. They are built and sustained through the blood, sweat, toil, and tears of their leaders. The natural rhythms of SPD life tend to send some of your greatest techs off to bigger and better things. And that's okay. But it's also one of the biggest reasons why excellent recruiting is so important.


It's one thing to lose someone great. It's an even bigger hit when you don't have any other talent in the bullpen. Build these recruiting relationships/pipelines now. When the time comes to call in the reinforcements, you and your team will be glad you did!


Hank Balch


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