By Josephine Colacci, JD
In light of the recent news articles making headlines across the country in regard to improperly sterilized reusable medical devices, the issue of requiring certification of Central Service (CS) technicians has become more important than ever.
As Steven J. Adams, RN, BA, CRCST, CHL, IAHCSMM president-elect and IAHCSMM Advocacy Committee member, explained, preventing infections from a CS professional perspective requires personnel to be focused and pay attention to details. “This does not come easily and re-quires education and ongoing training for CS professionals to become – and remain -- proficient in these skills. There should be no question but to require certification of CS technicians across the nation in order to further promote patient safety.”
As 2016 commenced, the state of Connecticut ushered into law the certification of CS technicians. Connecticut marks the third state to re-quire certification of CS technicians; however, the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM)'s work to educate state legislators has just begun.
IAHCSMM’s legislative agenda for 2016 consists of certification legislation in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. In Massachusetts, the legislation successfully passed out of the Joint Public Health Committee on November 25, 2015. The legislation awaits a vote in the Joint Health Care Financing Committee; it must successfully pass out of the Joint Health Care Financing Committee by March 16, 2016. We will be convening meetings with the committee co-chairs to ask them to move our bill forward. In Pennsylvania, our focus is on educating legislators about our issue; this education process will take us a year to complete. Recently, we met with several legislators on the House Health Committee to explain what CS technicians’ jobs entail and the reasons behind the introduction of the legislation. We will continue the education process throughout 2016.
At the end of January 2016, the state of Tennessee introduced two CS technician study bills; this was done without IAHCSMM’s knowledge and involvement. These study bills ask the Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities to report to the chairs of the House and Senate Health Committees on or before January 15, 2017, on whether or not CS technicians should be regulated. The IAHCSMM Advocacy Committee is reaching out to the sponsors of the legislation to learn the background into the introduction of these bills.
Even though New Jersey, New York and Connecticut are currently the only states requiring certification of CS technicians, there’s a growing trend by healthcare facilities and CS departments across the country to require certification amongst reprocessing staff. It’s a move rooted in patient safety and infection prevention efforts, and one that can help advance knowledge, skills, quality and practice consistency within the discipline.
Having infection preventionists who understand and appreciate the valuable role CS professionals play in patient safety and positive patient outcomes is also critical. The same is true of infection preventionists’ willingness to stand behind the CS department to ensure its technicians have the support and tools they need to do their jobs safety, effectively and consistently, and in accordance with the latest industry standards, recommendations and manufacturers’ instructions for use.
“With all the publicity regarding new and evolving bugs, and breaks in the infection prevention processes, it is more important than ever that CS professionals be thoroughly trained in proper technique and processes, and be certified and required to keep current with the latest standards and recommendations, technologies, instrumentation and best practices,” explains IAHCSMM Advocacy Committee member Steve Maley, CSPDM, CRCST, CHL.
For some facilities, recent advisories, such as the Sept. 15, 2015, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Advisory on the immediate need for healthcare facilities to review procedures for cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing reusable medical devices, have helped strengthen relations between CS and Infection Prevention. It’s a positive development that IAHCSMM Advocacy Committee member Dawn Rooney, CRCST, CIS, has experienced firsthand.
Without questions, the push for CS certification, continuing education and knowledge advancement – regardless of whether or not a facility operates in a state that requires certification of CS technicians -- is a positive change that will impact care quality and patient safety both now and in the future.
As Damien Berg, BS, CA, CRCST, IAHCSMM Advocacy Committee At-Large member, reasoned, the need for continuing CS education and certification should be a must, especially considering that CS professionals are entrusted with cleaning and sterilizing instruments, and are a critical part of the patient’s care team. “Certification is that crucial piece that is needed.”
Josephine Colacci, JD, serves as government affairs director for the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM).