Advancing Sustainability in Sterile Processing: Exeter Hospital's Innovations


Explore how Exeter Hospital revamped sustainability efforts, reducing waste, improving efficiency, and saving costs in the sterile processing department, as presented at HSPA 2024.

Eliza Johnson, CRCST

Eliza Johnson, CRCST

Hospitals are placing great importance on sustainability and cost reduction across all departments, including sterile processing. Sustainable practices not only align with environmental stewardship but also lead to operational efficiency and fiscal responsibility.

Sterile processing involves the meticulous cleaning, sterilization, and distribution of medical instruments, and adopting sustainable measures is particularly significant in this area. By prioritizing sustainability initiatives, hospitals aim to optimize workflows, minimize resource consumption, and streamline processes in the sterile processing department. These efforts contribute towards improving efficiency throughout the department, which ultimately leads to better patient care outcomes.

This topic was addressed several times at the Healthcare Sterile Processing Association (HSPA) Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, from April 20 to April 23, 2024.

One poster presentation at the HSPA Annual Conference was “A Continuation of Sustainability in Sterile Processing,” a poster by Eliza Johnson, CRCST, a quality specialist at ARCH Medical Solutions. Until March 2024, she was a certified sterile processing technician at Exeter Hospital, Exeter, New Hampshire.

In 2023, the sterile processing department at Exeter Hospital initially addressed sustainability efforts. In 2024, the hospital expanded its efforts by additional changes to its sustainability protocols throughout the department. The changes were successful and have resulted in waste reduction, efficiency improvement, and increased cost savings.

A significant part of the sustainability efforts was reducing waste, which the department “addressed by supplying backup instrumentation to frequently used orthopedic trays. Having backup instrumentation to these trays ensures that, in some cases, the trays could be fully stocked and wouldn’t need to be reopened for a restock,” the author wrote.

Because of this change, “some of the most frequently used orthopedic trays at the hospital have been switched into approved rigid containers, rather than being wrapped.” This change guarantees that wrap and filter paper are not wasted every time a missing instrument needs to be replaced, regardless of whether backup instrumentation is available.

Additionally, the sterile processing department implemented rigid containers and orthopedic tray liners for heavy trays still requiring wrap. This change to the tray liners proved to be more efficient in preventing holes than those the department used previously, reducing wasted wrap and ensuring proper tray sterility.

Another cost-saving improvement was the department’s change to more concentrated enzymatic detergents used for the washer-disinfectors. “This means that less detergent will need to be used for each wash cycle, allowing detergent to be ordered less frequently,” Johnson wrote.

Find other coverage from HSPA 2024 and previous years here.

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