Meeting the Challenge of Advancing the Profession

November 1, 2001

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Meeting the Challenge of Advancing the Profession

By Bryant C. Broder, CSPDT, ACSP

The principal challenge posed to healthcare professionals
working under the umbrella term of central services is how to effectively manage
and perform the multi-dimensional responsibilities of the job. Whether your
department is called Central Services, Central Supply, Sterile Processing,
Reprocessing, or any other of a host of names, we are all fundamentally involved
in the same business: the reprocessing, decontamination, assembly, and
sterilization of surgical instrumentation, supplies, and equipment. Whew! And if
that isn't enough, some of us also are responsible for monitoring clinic
sterilization practices, laundry, and the dispensing/charging of patient care
supplies, equipment, floor instrumentation, and let's not forget, budgets. No
wonder we go home feeling tired.

Consider the multitude of activities conducted within the CS/SPD. The
knowledge base required to carry out our duties can be daunting. Here are some
ideas to assist you as you rise to meet the challenge.

Education is the key to meeting the challenge. The best thing we can do to
ensure safe and effective practice is to focus on education. Not to say we will
ever know everything, because we won't. So, it is the learning process in
which we must involve ourselves. We must learn something new, or at least try
to, every day. It may be a new instrument or piece of equipment, a new
procedure, a new virus, or an old germ. The important thing is to look for
opportunities to learn something new.

Your hospital's infection control practitioner (ICP) can help facilitate the
education cause, whether it is in the form of mentoring, self-study, inservice
training, or networking. A collaborative relationship needs to be established
between the ICP and CS manager. At one time or another, the ICP and CS manager
are going to have to draw upon one another for support, whether it involves
getting ready for a JCAHO inspection, dealing with the reuse of single-use
medical devices, providing educational sessions on nosocomial infections, or
addressing a decontamination/sterilization concern.

This support can arrive in many ways. Advocacy is one. The ICP, generally
having the ear of the quality management department and administration, can help
advocate the need for the CS professional to be certified through an accredited,
competency-based training and certification program. The ICP can help explain
the criticality of the CS profession. They are not just the "people
downstairs." CS professionals handle highly sensitive equipment,
instrumentation, supplies, and processes to support the surgical arena.

CS professionals are on the front line of the fight against infection. If
your hospital does not have a fully staffed, trained, and compensated CS
department, it is setting itself up for failure.

Key areas to focus on for the ICP and CS manager are the decontamination and
sterilization processes. This is where the CS manager can help the ICP
understand the complexity of the instrumentation, as well as the efforts that go
into preparing a tray for sterilization and the biological monitoring system
used. The ICP may know all the bugs, but the CS professional knows where they
are hiding in the instrumentation and is charged with making the equipment and
instrumentation safe for handling. Together, the ICP and CS manager are a great
one-two punch on the front line. Inviting the ICP into CS is always very
enlightening for both parties. The CS professional will have the opportunity to
showcase his or her department, and review sterilization equipment and the
biological monitoring processes with the ICP. Needlesticks, sharps disposal,
blood and body fluid precautions, and of course handwashing, are all appropriate
topics of conversation at this point.

Some educational opportunities will require an understanding of computer
applications. Not just the standard offerings from the major software producers,
but hybrid software programs that perform instrument tracking, productivity
analysis, and financial analysis. Sharing data with the ICP via computer
programs will lead to a better understanding of how one profession can assist
the other. This is the information age; the more information you have the better
off you'll be to serve as a resource, to problem solve, and to provide support
for other departments. Accurate information is the best information and if you
want the most accurate information on bugs, go to someone who tracks them for a
living. The Sherlock Holmes in the fight against nosocomial infections is your
most valuable resources--the hospital's ICP.

Another method of support for the CS manager and ICP is participating as a
member of a professional association. The Association for Professionals in
Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) and the American Society for
Healthcare Central Service Professionals (ASHCSP) are some of many national
groups. Additionally, these organizations generally have regional or state
societies in which individuals can participate. The benefit derived from being a
member and attending a local or national conference is immeasurable. The
knowledge gained by learning something new and being able to take that back to
your institution is extremely valuable. Not to mention the benefit gained from
establishing a network of individuals that can be contact to provide answers to
questions either by e-mail or by logging on to a list-serve, bulletin board or
chatroom. Through your interactions you will have developed your own expert peer
list, and you won't have to reinvent the wheel. As well, you'll become a huge
asset to your institution. There again, everyone may not see the benefit to
these types of educational sessions. That's another way the ICP can help CS
advance the profession. Together we can get the best people, the best practices,
and the best results to raise the standards of healthcare.

Bryant Broder, CSPDT, ACSP, is the manager of surgery processing at St.
Mary's Mercy Medical Center in Grand Rapids, Mich and is president-elect to
ASHCSP.