Advancements are made every day in the field of healthcare. Individuals working in this area must strive to stay up to date with best practices in the industry. This is achieved through completing competencies in your field of practice. But what does it mean to be competent in your specific area of practice and what are the direct and indirect benefits of attaining that competency?

What are Competencies?

In general terms being competent means to be highly qualified in a particular area of one’s arena of practice. Achieving competence means we understand why we do what we do and that understanding yields a higher safety margin for patients. It provides the proof that individuals are performing at the highest level in their everyday duties and gives credibility and accountability to that person(s) when it relates to their job duties. Being competent comes with several benefits to the individual as well throughout the organization. Individuals show a personal commitment to quality job performance based on their ability to learn and comprehend what is considered best practice in their particular role. On a broader scale, the organization benefits from the individual achieving the competency because the individual brings the best practice into play on a daily basis, raising the level of achievement by the organization.

Hospitals and surgery centers are highly regulated and maintain the highest standards in regards to patient care. Their credibility is at stake when an error occurs within the operating room environment. This includes infection rates of patients after procedures and even after the patient discharges from the hospital. By having their employees trained with the best practices, it allows the hospitals and surgery centers to be able to predict behaviors in the Central Sterile Supply Department (CSSD) and know the skill level of their employees.

Whether you work in a hospital or a free standing ambulatory surgical center, being competent in the Central Sterile Supply Department does not change. Mastering the skills needed to achieve the highest possible outcome for the patient is always top priority.

How Technology Helps

Technology can improve the process of becoming competent. As an industry we are transitioning from paper files to electronic files. As technology evolves it assists in collecting and maintaining information so that it is easier for the manager to quickly access and review each of their employees with regards to their completion of competencies. Listed below are examples of competencies that individuals may be required to complete in the Central Sterile Supply Department:

  • Preparation and transport of contaminated materials
  • Cleaning and Decontamination
  • Inspection
  • Assembly and Packaging
  • Sterilization
  • Quality Improvement and Monitoring
  • Proper Storage

With the items listed above, employees must be able to perform the appropriate steps to be deemed competent. For example, within a sterilization competency, the employee should be able to:

  • Understand how to operate the sterilizer
  • Understand the parameters of the sterilizer
  • Understand the incubation and reading of biologicals
  • Understand the importance of a load recall
  • Understand different cycle options
  • Understand load release procedures

CSSD Manager Responsibilities

The CSSD manager is responsible for each employee and ensuring they have the knowledge and skills required to perform the tasks in the everyday functions of the CSSD to ensure patient safety. If the employee is deemed to not be competent, then the manager must work with him/her until they are able to successfully complete the proper steps.

Using competencies allows the CSSD manager to know how each individual performs their duties. It creates a level playing field for individuals while maintaining high levels of performance. Managers have the opportunity to re-educate their employees by increasing their level of knowledge and performance in areas where lower levels were measured through the performed competencies. As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, employers and employees are striving to find a way to maintain the highest quality of care with the best outcomes available for patients. Having competent training personnel is an integral part of the solution to this problem.

Author: Xanthia Fralix, CCSVP

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