Sterile Processing Should Partner With Other Departments in the Hospital

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Sterilization in hospitals often lacks coordination with other departments, which may hinder knowledge exchange and performance. What can be done to overcome this challenge?

Sterile processing is a crucial aspect of hospital operations, but it often lacks collaboration with other departments. This hinders knowledge exchange and prevents everyone from working at their full potential.

An expert who holds certifications in both infection prevention and sterile processing, Jill E. Holdsworth, MS, CIC, FAPIC, NREMT, CRCST, discussed how to overcome this challenge with Infection Control Today® (ICT®). She presented “Sterile Processing Beyond the Operating Room” at the 2023 HSPA Annual Conference held in Nashville, Tennessee, from May 6-10. Holdsworth serves as infection prevention manager at Emory University Hospital Midtown in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jill E. Holdsworth, MS, CIC, FAPIC, NREMT, CRCST: This year, I’m presenting on sterile processing outside the OR [operating room]. So places like interventional radiology, the clinical course, [intensive care units], and any other area that uses instrumentation in their units, Catheter Labs, women's services, anywhere that uses instrumentation that would bring [instruments] back to sterile processing departments. So all that instrumentation comes back to start processing.

ICT: What do you hope attendees take away from your presentation?

JH: What I hope people will see from this presentation is [how many] ways that you can partner with other people, other professions, especially infection prevention, [Reach out for] partnership opportunities, especially infection preventionists (IPs), how we [as IPs] can help the sterile processing techs, the sterile processing leadership, with things like transportation issues. Are they transporting it in the right kind of container? Are they pretreating? Are they precleaning in these spaces? What we have found in these other spaces, other departments is that they lacked that knowledge, that specialization, of the sterile processing world, and they need a lot more attention, education, and focus. Still, they don't get it because they aren't in the operating rooms proper. They're in these other departments farther away from sterile processing. They need a little more attention than they would get if they were closer to the actual department.

ICT: What have you been most excited about at this year’s HSPA conference?

JH: At this year's HSPA [conference], it’s exciting to learn about all the changes that are happening in the field and all the empowerment that's happening for sterile processing to start advancing as a profession. I love hearing about people in sterile processing being co-authors on publications like [the American Journal of Infection Control], which is exciting. I love hearing about the future of water quality standards; that is a huge step forward for infection prevention and sterile processing. And [it is] a big opportunity for us to partner together again; there are so many ways for us to partner.

We've heard about it in all the sessions at this conference, and I've been taking so many notes about more ways to partner. I hope all the sterile processing professionals here are also taking notes about what they want to go back and talk to their IPs about. So many speakers have said to be best friends with your IPs, that you need to talk to your IP about this [subject] and make sure to talk to your IP. And [the speakers] have been saying. “Do you know your facility’s person's name or this person's name?” And I hope all our sterile processing [techs] also say, “Do you know your IP’s name?” “Do you know how to get in touch with your IP?” “Are you finding your IP down?” So that's a common theme that I have been hearing at this conference…is [that] you need to partner with IP, and you need to make them your best friend. And I have not heard that as much as I have this conference in the past few years. That's exciting!

ICT: Do you have anything else you’d like to add?

JH: “I think there are some exciting ways that IPs and sterile processing can still learn from each other. I've heard many folks struggling with their certifications or sterile processing certifications. I've also seen many people who have told me they're excited about the a-IPC certification. And that shows more interest on both sides to learn more. And so that's another way that we can partner together.

Folks in sterile processing want to get the a-IPC [certification], then that's a chance for us as IPs to start partnering to educate them [and] work more with them. If there are IPs who want to be certified in sterile processing, that's a way that we [as IPs] have a chance to spend more time in sterile processing, which is what they want from us, [which] is what I'm hearing. They want us to be in the department, spending more time in sterile processing, and then we will get the hours to be certified ourselves. There's that kind of hunger on both sides for certification and knowledge.

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

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