Sterile Processing Techs Can Never “Dial It In” Because Lives Are on the Line


A veteran in the sterile processing field, Sharon Greene-Golden gave several presentations at the HSPA Annual Conference. She spoke to ICT about them.

Veterans in any field can advise and guide others in the same profession. One expert well-known to many sterile processing technicians is Sharon Greene-Golden, BA, CRCST, CER, SME, FCS, and a Healthcare Sterile Processing Association (HSPA) past president. She manages the sterile processing department at Adventist Healthcare Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville, Maryland.

Greene-Golden sat down with Infection Control Today® to discuss her presentations, including her keynote address, at the HSPA Annual Conference held in Nashville, Tennessee, from May 6-10. Her keynote address was called “The Sterile Processing Profession, the Past, the Present, the Future: The View from My Window.”

“I stood up there for an hour to encourage, motivate and stimulate my peers in the field to do better,” she explained. “I had to tell the good, the bad, and the ugly. I had to tell them [that] this was us. [The presentation] was all about [that] what we do matters every day, and we do not have the luxury to dial it in ever.”

She explained the importance of what sterile processor technicians do because it affects many people. “What they do matters to the patient, to the patient's family, to the doctor, to the nurse, to the anesthesiologist, to the technician, to the first assistant to them, and their peers,” Greene-Golden said.

She said that she hopes the attendees take away the importance of following instructions when dealing with instrumentation. “If they follow those instructions to the letter, they will not impact a patient's life adversely.

Next, she discussed her second presentation on mental health in sterile processing departments (SPD) because SPD departments are small departments. “What I found, especially after [COVID-19], is that people have a lot of mental issues,” Greene-Golden explained. “And they're bringing those mental issues to work every day. And they're trying to work and work through what is a mental issue, that sometimes they're not even aware that they have a problem.”

She describes her own experiences with depression after many severe health issues. She said emphatically that there is no shame in taking medication to help get through a tough emotional time. “I felt so much better [than when] my head couldn't get off the pillow. [now] I could think straight; I could go back to becoming who I was. And so I want people to have that same ability to be able to go and get help, to be able to talk to somebody,” she said.

Her last presentation was on “Every Load Monitoring,” which is when every load of instruments that goes through the SPD gets monitored for cleanliness and sterilization. Greene-Golden emphasized how important doing this is. "Every load monitoring allows us to be able to stand up and say, if the instruments are clean, if the parameters were met, if the test comes back negative, you can use those instruments and not worry, we have to do every low we can't pick a load because if you just choose the third or the fourth load, the fifth and the sixth load could be failures, but you're using those instruments on a patient. And that's not fair to the patient. Every patient deserves the same level of commitment.”

There are other reasons to check every load, including doing so is cheaper than a health care-acquired infection lawsuit against the facility.

Greene-Golden, from over 30 years of being in the sterile processing field, gave sterile processing technicians some advice: “The most important thing for sterile processing or central sterile supply technicians to do in their field is the right thing every day for every patient every time and to remember that we do not have the luxury to dial it in. It's not fair to our patients.”

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