Did you know that hairdressers must pass a state exam to become a certified beautician? What about respiratory therapists or dental hygienists? Aren’t surgical techs in the operating room (OR) certified, as are some OR nurses? We feel more comfortable about purchasing a certified pre-owned car. We only want certified teachers working in our schools. If so, why is education and certification in the central service (CS) profession minimized? Every state should require any facility that employs CS personnel to achieve and maintain certification and/or licensure. There should be no debate about it. The bottom line is that CS personnel indirectly save lives everyday. CS staff must have thorough knowledge of code carts, case carts, par levels, OR supplies, specialty items, thousands of different surgical instrumentation, disinfections, chemicals, gas plasma, ethylene oxide, pre-vacuum, gravity sterilization, infection control, human anatomy, microbiology, and the list goes on and on.
Why is it taking so long for state assemblies and state departments of health to understand the importance of this issue? Shouldn’t CS professionals be the first to promote and demand certification? I say shame on those who do not support these issues and continue to keep them on the back burner. Why does the Joint Commission, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI), and even the International Standards Organization (ISO) have so many standards and still it is so hard to mandate certification? Healthcare facilities that employ CS personnel should not wait for their states to pass laws requiring mandatory certification. It should be a facility requirement for employment, not a way to save money by paying non-certified CS personnel a lower salary. Certainly many hospitals have an education budget that would allow CS personnel to attend certification classes, or at least pay for the required textbooks. The precedent exists for nurses, phlebotomists, dietary personnel and hospital employees. These facilities should raise the bar, demand certification, hire and pay for the very best.
What about the managers and directors who oversee CS personnel? Too often people from nursing, pharmacy or purchasing are hired for the CS department, and these individuals have no concept of what CS actually does. How can someone who has no prior hands-on experience oversee this department? College degrees are great, however, they do not replace CS certification. How can managers begin to understand the issues that take place within the CS department unless they have worked there as techs? How can this individual be an advocate for the CS staff? The bottom line is that mandatory certification and hands-on training in the CS department is an absolute must.
There are many professional organizations that offer continuing education. The International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM) partners with Purdue University in Indiana to offer online courses and self-study programs. These courses are extremely helpful in gathering the necessary information and knowledge to pass the certification exam. Many industry vendors offer scholarships for certification, and CS professionals should take advantage of these services.
While some healthcare facilities are educated about the importance of certification and understand the daily function of CS, these facilities will also offer a pay raise and possible career growth path upon certification. Who wouldn’t like a promotion and more money? It is time for all CS staff to get certified. The fight for mandatory certification will only become a bigger challenge; eventually, CS professionals will be unable to find employment in certain states in which mandatory certification is already required, such as New Jersey.
That being said, some CS personnel insist that they don’t need to be certified. They feel they should be grandfathered in for years of service rendered. They believe they won’t get more money for their efforts or they fear that they will fail the exam. Many may feel that when they “have” to do it, they will. It’s a matter of choice; if the choice is not obtaining certification, these individuals don’t belong in CS. They shouldn’t be cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing the surgical instruments that may be used on someone’s family member. If the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforces reprocessing guidelines on manufacturers, then CS staff should be certified and knowledgeable in carrying out the recommended practices.
In the very near future, all states, healthcare facilities and CS employees will agree that certification is the way to go and will continue this journey toward excellence. We often do not get a second chance to do something right. Everyday we indirectly save a life. From the detergent that cleans the contaminated instrument, to the sterilizer that makes the surgical tray sterile-ready, to an instrument that is used to deliver that beautiful newborn, that’s us... we are the CS professionals! ICT
Kristina Pirollo, CRCST, CHL, is a consultant with New York City-based Nexera Consulting Inc.