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The CSSD's Supportive Role in Hospital Infection Control


Each day, millions of medical procedures are performed in healthcare facilities worldwide, with caregivers and patients relying on the availability and use of a wide range of supplies, instruments and equipment. These devices must be properly cleaned, disinfected and/or sterilized, inspected for quality to ensure good working condition, and available at the point of care. In the absence of proper handling, processing and storage, these devices may become contaminated and compromise quality patient care.

In most healthcare facilities, the central sterile supply department (CSSD) plays a key role in providing the items required to deliver quality patient care. To support infection control within the healthcare facility, the CSSD staff members must be well-trained and skilled, and committed to “doing what’s right” every step of the way. That means ensuring that shortcuts are never made and that processes and practices are consistently followed.

Centralizing the reprocessing of reusable devices helps ensure uniform standards of practice, while also providing for improved workflow (soiled, to clean, to sterile). This also facilitates the training and education of skilled technicians who must be knowledgeable about the standards, complexities, challenges, risks, and techniques associated with the CSSD function. Every CSSD task must be performed in a manner that protects the welfare and safety of patients, co-workers and the community.

Prioritizing Quality

It’s not enough for CSSD technicians to know how to perform their jobs; they must also know and understand why they do what they do. As they perform their daily tasks, they must have the knowledge to support effective problem-solving and decision-making, and the understanding that every step in the CSSD has a direct impact on infection control – and, above all, patient care and safety.

It is critical that CSSD personnel establish quality levels for the products and services they produce and then ensure that these levels are consistently attained. Quality is determined by customers and, therefore, the success of CSSD depends upon their satisfaction. Anyone who has an expectation about the products or services of CSSD is a “customer.” This includes surgical services personnel, physicians, patients, diagnostic imaging technicians and other medical personnel, and delivery staff. Quality (or lack of quality) can have dramatic consequences on the health and safety of personnel and patients. How well quality products and services are provided will impact the operation of the department and have a direct impact on the hospital’s financial success.

What is “quality?” A common definition relates to the “degree or grade of excellence of a product or service.” For example, emergency department personnel may believe that an emergency crash cart was delivered efficiently, but may be unsatisfied with CSSD staff because they failed to provide a needed item on the pick list. This could indicate good quality service, but poor quality of product. By contrast, assume that a surgical instrument set is needed quickly in the surgical suite and that set is delivered complete (no missing instruments). If the surgical staff is not informed that the set was delivered; however, then the CSSD essentially provided a good product, yet failed in terms of customer service. In short, it is through the eyes of the customer that quality is measured.

There are several ways that the quality of goods and services are described, but a key component relates to the ability to measure quality. This is reasonable because one must always compare ideal and actual quality levels. Identifying and completing the many tasks performed in CSSD can be accomplished through the development of effective policies and procedures that are supported by industry standards and guidelines. Training CSSD team members to follow these policies and procedures will ensure a consistent, high-quality product and level of service. This, in turn, will support quality patient care.

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