BY ROSE SEAVEY, RN, MBA, CNOR, ACSP
To my fellow healthcare workers who bear the responsibility for sterile processing:
Our world is changing. Not breaking news, I know, but the pace at which change occurs is breathtaking, isnt it? Communication, technology, finances, personal and professional expectations, are all being bent and shaped by any number of outside forces over which we have only limited control. So many of these changes impact the way we work, the parameters of our jobs, our way of thinking. Change in the workplace these days is sort of like a roller coaster - scary, exhilarating, rarely smooth, fast-paced, adrenaline pumping, and sometimes youd just rather get off the ride now!
The field of sterile processing is experiencing changes at the same break-neck speed as the rest of the world. All of the things that impact most of us in our day-to-day lives are having a great impact on our profession. For example, these days its not uncommon for a lot of people everywhere to be generalists, to be pretty good at a number of things rather than being experts in just one or two areas. Responsibility for sterile processing activities is increasingly moving into generalists territory. Whereas 10 or 20 years ago many or most healthcare facilities housed sterile processing and central service departments, more and more these functions are being absorbed by other areas of operations such as materials management, operating room administration, infection control departments, and even finance divisions. In turn, lines of communication within departments, among departments, and with product and service providers are shifting and being redrawn to accommodate the new configurations responsible for sterile processing activity. We adapt to these changes and take pride in our ability to clearly communicate detailed and complex information to our coworkers.
New technologies are sweeping through healthcare facilities and we are asked with increasing frequency to learn new methods, new instruments, and new procedures to help us be more efficient and, everyone hopes, more cost effective. Scanners and trackers are smaller and less expensive, and more flexible too. Sterilizers are more efficient, and new and specialized instruments are being introduced all the time. We develop the know-how and become proficient in working with and using these high tech tools and, later, wonder how we ever managed before.
Hiring and promotion practices are increasingly based on tangible evidence of education and experience. Companies and organizations today are less likely and less able to extend opportunities to individuals who lack increasing levels of professional competence. Plus, we know that the new technology were learning to use, the belief that well be able to manage our time and our employers resources more efficiently, and the increasingly complex communication were expected to have, mean that we have to stay on top of our game at work. We do that by pursuing continuing education, and more of us all the time are going the extra mile by earning certification as a sterile processing professional.
Speaking of change speeding things along have you noticed how flat the world seems some times? All of these changes seem to have broken down barriers and made borders more flexible. As a result, sterile processing is becoming an increasingly important issue worldwide. As public awareness on an international basis is drawn more frequently to issues concerning infection control, more healthcare workers across the world are recognizing that their sterile processing practices could benefit from training and expert guidance. Not surprisingly, these people are reaching out to us to you and me because sterile processing practices in the United States are viewed as being among the most comprehensive and cutting edge in the world. We collaborate and extend ourselves professionally for the greater good of all patients everywhere.
Sterile processing professionals are adapting to the ever-changing world in ways I couldnt have imagined when starting out 20 years ago, because we are more flexible, better educated, more likely to be certified, and increasingly aware of our most important role in fighting infection, regardless of the department to which we report. We are CSP and we are awesome!
In closing, I realize that your title may not include the words sterile processing, but you know who you are: operating room staff, materials management personnel, the central supply workforce, and others. You make sure that your customers have what they need, when they need it, and that staff and patients in your facility are that much more safe as a result of your work. Your efforts in providing efficient and effective support to healthcare practices are commendable and I am speaking to each of you when I say Thank you! I am proud to be a sterile processing professional and Im proud of you!
Rose Seavey, RN, MBA, CNOR, ACSP, is director of the sterile processing department of The Childrens Hospital in Denver, the president of the American Society for Healthcare Central Service Professionals (ASHCSP), and is an active member of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN).
Next Certification Exam Scheduled for April 2004
The Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution, Inc. (CBSPD), formerly the NICHSPDP, offers four levels of certification: Technician, Surgical Instrument Technician, Supervisor, and Manager. The examinations for each level are offered every April and October; the October 2003 exam is now closed; the next tests are scheduled for April 2004 and Oct. 16, 2004. The examinations are offered at test sites throughout the U.S. and internationally. In addition, special test sites can be established at any healthcare facility. The test site registration fee is $75. Upon successful completion of the examination, certification remains valid for five years. Re-certification can be accomplished through re-examination or a combination of work experience and continuing education. Since its inaugural examination in 1991, the CBSPD has credentialed over 12,000 personnel internationally. For more details, call (800) 555-9765 or (908) 788- 3847.