By RichardP. Blasko, MBA, CSPDT, CRCST
Healthcare providers haveacknowledged with increased frequency that quality patient care flows far deeperthan just direct patient contact. The behind-the-scenes unsung heroes of sterileprocessing/central service (SP/CS) are an integral part of the prevention ofcross contamination. Recruitment, training and retention of SP/CS staff can besuch a daunting task that managers must assume a proactive approach if they areto provide a high quality product to their customers on a consistent basis. Buthow can this be accomplished within the assiduous, high-stress environment ofsterile processing?
Certification requirement is the key. If certification is nota requisite at your facility, it should be. Not only does certification of yourtechnicians demonstrates to your customers that your staff has achieved anexceptional level of knowledge and expertise, it provides assurance thatindustry standards of infection control are not merely text in a policy manual,but standard protocol in your facility. Finally, certification inhibitscomplacency and allows your staff to endeavor to improve processes throughcontinued education.
To achieve certification, you will need to conduct in-housetraining of your technicians to prepare them to pass a nationally recognizedcertification exam, thus confirming expertise in the field. Employing a simplefour-step process, which I have found successful in the instruction of adultlearners, can heighten the efficacy of your training.
Step One: Instructor Preparation
To maximize your effectiveness you need to execute thefollowing steps prior to initiating the first class:
Step Two: Student Preparation
The first class meeting is the most crucial. It is reasonableto postulate that the students in your course have probably not recently been ina formal classroom environment. Your responsibility is to not only alleviatetheir stress, but to afford them techniques for studying the material toincrease their effectiveness. Listed below is a 10-point handout that I reviewat the outset of the first class. These techniques bestow the students withcompetent study habits to allow them to ascertain the information essential forsuccess.
10 Rules for Effective Learning
Two aforementioned items must be discussed at this point.First, you may dispute that providing written lecture notes to the students isadvantageous; however, you are teaching this course, thus you possess (or youshould possess) a singular knowledge of the material. Who better to furnish thestudents with a logical outline of the information to augment their learning? Inaddition, I also dissuade the practice of note taking during class. It is nearly impossible for the student to write notes fastenough during class that will actually prove beneficial at a later point. And ifthe student is diligently writing, how efficiently is he or she listening toyour lecture?
After discussing this information you must now present therequirements of the certification board to the students. Once again, your dutyas the instructor is to replete the students with a full understanding of thecertification exam requirements to prepare themselves adequately for success.You are also establishing the groundwork for continuing education of yourtechnicians to stay abreast with current technologies.
Step Three: Instruction of Material
Presentation of the material must embody all three of theprinciples of auditory, visual and tactile techniques. Each individual willbring to class their own unique process for learning. In addition, adultlearners have personal lives which may impose distractions to learning. Byincorporating all three educational methods you guarantee that the material ispresented in a manner that can be easily assimilated.
Step Four: Exam Preparation
The final step in the process is assuring that your studentsare prepared for the stress of certification exam day. At least three formalexams should be given in a multiple-choice format. Review the certificationboards test requirements and conform to them during your exam. This will permitthe students to emulate the pressure and stress of exam day before ittranspires. And it will afford you the opportunity to identify and correct anydeficiencies. Exam questions need to be arduous and constrain the student todiscern fully the concepts and not just memorize answers. Your exams will also later be utilized as a learning tool.Encourage the students to debate any incorrect answers that they believe are, infact, correct. This advocates the student to gain an astute knowledge of thematerial. Ask why or why not when reviewing questions. For example, knowledge ofproper placement of a biological test pack is not sufficient. However, if thestudent can construe why a test pack is put near the drain they have takenownership of the information. Finally, change the wording of the questionsduring review and prompt students to explain how and why the answer would bedifferent.
In conclusion, providing your technicians with a formalinstructional program not only contributes to an improvement of certificationpassage, but you will also be assured as to the level of knowledge they haveattained. By applying the principles discussed in this guide, we have achieved a100 percent pass rate for the 35 students who have participated in ourcertification prep course. Your customers will realize the benefits once staffcomprehends why it is necessary to adhere to protocols of infection control.
Richard P. Blasko, MBA, CSPDT, CRCST, is supervisor ofsurgical processing and support services at Akron General Medical Center inAkron, Ohio. In addition, he is the instructor of the sterile processing/centralservice course at the University of Akron.