By Julie E. Williamson
Some central service (CS) professionals find comfort in knowing their chosen discipline provides them with a secure “job.” The fact is, though, that the dynamic, fast-paced and ever-evolving realm of CS/sterile processing delivers a challenging, yet rewarding career filled with rich opportunities for growth and advancement.
More than ever, patient safety and positive outcomes are a top priority for healthcare organizations, and they are seeking professionals across all disciplines who will keep those priorities at the forefront and, at the same time, improve customer service and streamline operational efficiencies. As a leading contributor to the Surgical Services department, it’s little wonder that quality- and safety-focused CS professionals are in increasingly high demand. It’s also understandable why more and more healthcare organizations are making CS technician certification and continuing education of all CS professionals a top departmental priority. It’s a move that will benefit employees, their facilities and, especially, the patients being served.
Taking personal responsibility of one’s career trajectory and also taking calculated leaps to stay ahead of changes in the discipline will help healthcare workers achieve long-term success and greater job satisfaction, career analysts stress. It will also help ensure that employees have the knowledge and skill sets needed to function effectively, consistently and efficiently.
“Knowledge is powerful and it’s absolutely necessary for those of us responsible for reprocessing devices,” stresses International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM) past-president David Jagrosse, CRCST, CHL, central sterile manager at Middlesex Hospital in Middlesex, Conn. “Devices, procedures, practices and standards continue to evolve and the only way for us to keep up is to stay educated and push ourselves beyond what we already know.”
According to career analyst Brent Radcliffe, workers boost their career potential by developing and refining their professional capabilities. The more one knows about a particular job's function or the more is understood about a particular industry, the more valuable they become to an employer, he reasons.
Indeed, those who stay dedicated to their discipline and avoid on-the-job complacency become front-runners for promotions and other opportunities to advance in the workplace and the profession, as a whole. A good manager pays close attention to those who go the extra mile and routinely demonstrate competency and professionalism on the job. If a promotion isn’t feasible at the time, that employee may be pegged as a departmental mentor or, perhaps, an interdepartmental liaison. If a career ladder program is in place, these dedicated staff members may find themselves scaling the proverbial rungs more quickly and opening themselves up to new professional opportunities inside and outside the CS department. This is especially the case when career ladder programs are designed to help healthcare workers attain on-the-job education and advanced skills training.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of pursuing continuing educational opportunities and committing to knowledge advancement is the satisfaction that comes from delivering the safest, highest quality service for patients and healthcare customers. Thanks to the many educational opportunities that exist today, CS professionals of virtually every background, title and tenure can become experts in their field, and be respected as such.
IAHCSMM’s education director, Natalie Lind, defines “expert” as an individual who possesses more knowledge about a specific subject or process than oneself might possess. Put simply, it’s an individual whom another employee can learn from or learn with. “When I have the opportunity to learn, I always open the door. The information I gather helps me grow with our field and also helps others grow.”
Knowledge sharing and advancement is essential in the realm of CS where technology is always advancing, processes and practices are evolving, and standards and guidelines are consistently updated. CS professionals who fail to keep up with those changes and developments can directly jeopardize patient safety, reminded Lind.
Taking personal responsibility for increasing one’s knowledge and then using that knowledge as a teaching moment for others is a great place for any quality- and safety-minded CS professional to start. This knowledge advancement and information transfer can be facilitated by self-study offerings and mentoring programs, or by attending an educational conference, in-service or other class. Those who commit to attaining CS certification, even if their facility or state hasn’t yet required it, will also demonstrate their dedication to quality and professionalism – and it’s a noble quest that could lead other CS team members to follow suit.
Regardless of how a CS professional pursues knowledge advancement and professional growth, one thing remains clear: the efforts will pay big dividends for the employee and everyone they serve. With quality service comes professional pride and satisfaction in knowing that one’s roles and responsibilities have a direct impact on others.
“Opportunities for advancement and other positive outcomes await us all, but we need to be willing to reach out and grab them,” says Jagrosse. “I encourage every CS professional to set goals that will help them deliver even more value to their departments, healthcare customers, patients and organizations.”
Julie E. Williamson is communications director/editor for IAHCSMM.