Infection Control Today - Inside Central Strerile - Training New Employees

Inside Central Sterile

Training New Employees
by Julie Stoller, CRCST

Central Service is a highly technical and specialized area of healthcare. Each employee must be knowledgeable in every aspect of the job. It is vital to everyone (staff, patients, and visitors) that the employees in the CS department be technically competent. Along with providing top-quality service, one must remember the other skills in which the CS technician must be proficient: employee safety issues, human relations skills, and the universal code of behavior which is expected of all Central Service professionals. Training new employees is a very complex task, which takes proper preparation, presentation/demonstration, practice, and follow-up. A well-planned training program should include instructional guidance in all the job responsibilities of Central Service, both technical and behavioral. So where would one start in this process of developing a productive and efficient member of the CS staff? The best place is at the beginning.

Showing a new CS employee the fire evacuation route should be part of orientation.

The importance of new employee selection cannot be stated strongly enough. Proper hiring techniques can save the CS department time, which in turn saves the healthcare facility money. Ideally, the person should have educational credentials (IAHCSMM, NICHSPDP) and/or work experience. The new employee must have the ability to understand the importance of detailed, technical instructions, but there are other traits that are also important--a positive attitude, enthusiasm about the job, and the willingness to learn. If the new staff member has these characteristics but lacks some of the technical skills, there is a good chance the training will be successful. In retrospect, choosing the right person for the position is the first step taken towards success or failure in the training process.

Just as important to hiring new staff members is the selection of qualified training staff. All trainers/preceptors should have a common goal: to provide the new technician with all the information needed to do his/her job correctly and to meet the high standards of the CS department continually. With proper training techniques in place, the new employee will become proficient in the skills required to do a quality job and be a productive member of the Central Service team.

Whether it's the use of visual aides such as instructional tapes, service manuals, or closely supervised On the Job Training (OJT), you must have an organized orientation program in place to ensure that all areas of responsibilities are covered and the desired level of training is accomplished. This process cannot be rushed; time and patience play such an important role. Remember, every person is an individual and will process information differently. Every training program must have an agenda or job breakdown. This agenda is a list of all tasks that are performed in the department and will have a
written procedure for each.

An employee's first day should consist of being introduced to the healthcare facility and to its policies and procedures. Most facilities have an orientation program set up for new staff members that should include some background information of the facility and topics such as electrical/fire safety, emergency preparedness, etc. Next, a tour of the hospital would be in order. Some areas of importance would be the special care units, ER, Intensive Care, and Cardiac Cath Lab. Once this tour has been completed, it is time to introduce the new technician to the CS department.

First days on the job can be very stressful. The quicker you can put the new employee at ease and make them feel part of the team, the easier it will be to initiate the learning process. A tour of the department should consist of introductions to the new employee's co-workers and lead staff and also the different areas such as decontamination, instrumentation, and the nursing and surgical materials support areas. Go over the departmental policies such as the dress code, attendance, and breaks. Give them a list of names from the Personnel Department who could answer any specific questions they might have about insurance benefits, savings plans, etc. Explain that the issue of employee safety is the responsibility of every staff member, experienced and new. Stress-safe working habits, from the correct way of handling chemicals in decontam, to proper care and handling of surgical instruments, disposing sharps, and proper ergonomics, should be explained. The trainee should be introduced to the Materials Safety Data Sheets and shown how to access this information in case the need arises. There isn't a better time than the present to start stressing the importance of following proper procedures and performing all tasks correctly. Explain not only how to do a specific task but also the importance of why it is done a particular way.

Throughout the instructional period of the training program, encourage the new technician to ask questions and to take notes. Explain quality and quantity work standards in each area of the department. Set attainable goals for the trainee to meet. This will give the new tech a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Each individual area in the department should have skills validation sheets with information pertinent to its specific functions. By documenting the progress of the new technician, the preceptor will find it easier to follow the level of competence being achieved, and this will indicate where more direction should be given.

It is advantageous to have one preceptor responsible for training in one specific area for the sake of continuity. Uniform instruction ensures the proper way of doing a task and also keeps the anxiety level down to a minimum for the trainee, which in turn aides the learning process. How does anyone master a task? By doing it. Once instruction has been given and the new employee has been given the opportunity to do a specific task, allow him/her to perform the task at hand without constant supervision. Trust that if they have any questions, they will ask. This does not mean let them "sink or swim." Mistakes will happen. When making corrections, remember always to give encouragement and apply positive reinforcement. Patience is very important for both trainee and trainer. Be respectful of one another and show interest in any concerns or questions the new employee might have.

Along with technical instruction, there is the issue of introducing the new tech to the professional code of behavior (moral, legal, and ethical) that is expected from all healthcare employees. Explain to him/her that this is a responsibility that automatically came along with becoming a member of the Central Service team. They are morally and legally bound to do their jobs correctly without taking any shortcuts and always following proper procedures. Stress security aspects of the job such as patient confidentiality. They have an ethical responsibility to respect the privacy of patients. The bottom line is the patients have entrusted the employees that work in CS with their care.

This would also be a good time to cover the importance of practicing effective human relation skills, which are critical for providing quality customer service. They must communicate clearly and effectively and be courteous and helpful. Explain to the trainee that as a CS employee, they are part of a team. The CS department depends on the performance and contribution of each employee. How each member interacts with the other will be a determining factor in having a productive or non-productive working relationship with each other.

Central Service is one of the most important departments in the hospital. In fact, the name itself tells you that it is the center or hub of the facility because of the many departments it services. The work is highly technical and complex. To become a qualified Central Service Technician, one needs extensive training involving all aspects of the department. CS employees must deal with personnel from all areas of the hospital. It is essential that they know and follow the basic principles of human relation skills. Working in the CS field guarantees constant change all around. It is essential to have a successful training program in place to keep up with new technologies and to present this information to experienced and new technicians alike. Be aware that there isn't a CS technician that is ever really out of training. P

Julie Stoller, CRCST, is a CaseCart Technician at MeritCare Medical Center (Fargo, North Dakota). She is a graduate of Northwest Technical College (Moorhead, Minn).


1 Central Service Management Manual. IAHCSM.
2 Supervision Principles: Leadership Strategies for Healthcare Facilities

For a complete list of references click here

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