Updated: Dec 6, 2021
(I dedicate this post to Vermont, Nebraska, Louisiana, Alabama, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii, and every CS professional who feels alone. We have not forgotten you...)
Sterile Processing excellence is a team sport.
True, there are some departments and leaders out there who have locked their department doors from the inside, and given everything they've got to ensuring their own CS house is order -- without a lot of thought to the hospital across the street. In one sense, I understand this. It's hard and stressful enough to bear the burden of your own processing challenges, not to mention thinking about everyone else's around you. Some of us have lived so long in this kind of "survivor-mode" that we've forgotten there are other co-labors with us who feel just as burnt out, just as alone, just as in need of a little encouragement and reminder to stay the course. Even with the all complexities and diversity of our departments, there is one universal truth among SPD professionals -- we get each other. And that connection, that unspoken nod from two technicians removing PPE from a long night in decontam that says "We made it," that kind of camaraderie matters. It is the fuel that keeps our professional engines buzzing until the next pit stop.
In short, we need each other. And we need each other often, in groups, with time to talk, connect, learn, question, and refuel. We need SPD associations, chapters, and organizations. Whatever you want to call your rag-tag army of microbial dragon-slayers - we need it. We need to hear different ideas from different perspectives with different solutions to different problems we haven't yet, but one day may, encounter. Sure, these local groups serve a number of other purposes as well, like providing continuing education units, exposing CS professionals to new vendors and products, and engaging the broader public as surgical instrument safety advocates. But at the end of the day, the professional synergy created over a cup of coffee, a small meeting room, and a topic that CS leaders from across your region are currently struggling with - that is where the power, beauty, and fundamental importance of local CS organizations is found.
The importance of your professional peers, joined together in a commitment to grow, improve, and expand your industry knowledge on behalf of your patients is nothing short of heroic. Although there may be nothing overtly glorious about 23 folks on a Saturday morning talking about laparoscopic care and handling, beneath the surface something much bigger and much more epic is going on. Grandmothers are being protected from the possibility of surgical burns from cracked insulation. Sunday-school teachers are being saved from months of painful recovery from an unnecessary surgical site infection caused by residual bioburden in a Maryland Dissector. A frightened child is being given a chance to have their appendix removed an hour sooner because of the processing techniques learned by a CS technician at that meeting.
Every single thing we learn about how to do CS better has a ripple effect far beyond what we see today. But these best practices must be heard. These presentations must be seen. These encouraging conversations to never give up the quality-fight must be had.
And I can think of no better context for this kind of industry-centered information and encouragement-exchange than local associations of CS professionals, meeting together on a regular basis to do these very things. While you may be good at what you do as an individual, there is no debating that we, as a Sterile Processing industry are stronger together.
Okay, so let's just say at this point you've got one hand on your address book and the other on AAMI ST79, ready to bring this vision home to your city, state, and region. But how? How do you get (and keep) the CS professionals around you excited and engaged in this deeper vision for industry excellence? Do you see a need for CS networking in your area? Are you living in one of those states I listed at the beginning of this post and think you are ready to take hold of the torch of Sterile Processing excellence? I want to hear from you. There are more people than you know who are willing to help you make this vision for education, growth, and professional encouragement a reality.
In the world of CS/SPD, there must be no department left behind. So, what are you going to do about it?
Beyond Clean Ⓒ 2021
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.