Image courtesy of IAHCSMM

Every year, International Sterile Processing Week rolls around (this year on October 11–17), and SPD professionals get a much-needed round of applause for the work they do all year to keep patients safe. 

SPDs and the healthcare facilities they serve know the importance of sterile processing for patient health, but many people outside of healthcare know little to nothing about sterile processing. This week offers a vital opportunity to change that—and celebrates the last year’s successes, which during the COVID-19 pandemic are especially significant.

What You Should Know About International Sterile Processing Week

Put on by the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM), International Sterile Processing Week is a week of celebration, recognition, and learning specifically for sterile processing professionals. This year’s theme, “together saving lives,” highlights the crucial role SPDs play in the larger healthcare system to keep patients safe by efficiently and effectively reprocessing medical devices. Sterile processing isn’t optional; this week reminds SPDs, their healthcare colleagues, and the general public of that fact.

Ways to Get Involved and Celebrate This Year

The COVID-19 pandemic means typical ways of celebrating—often involving refreshments and in-person events—may be off the table. Your healthcare facility may be limiting interactions between departments as much as possible or have limited resources for extra, nonessential activities. But that doesn’t mean you should skip Sterile Processing Week. 

Here are a few ways you can make sure your SPD gets the attention (and the credit) it deserves:

  1. Spread the Word to Government Officials and Local Media

We’re all hungry for uplifting stories right now. As you look back on the last year, take time to note your departments’ successes and achievements. Did you implement a new standard or best practice to improve reprocessing outcomes? Did you effectively handle higher demand from a certain part of the hospital? Get as specific as possible. Then use those stories to demonstrate to your local and state government officials—as well as news media—the importance of sterile processing. 

If your governor hasn’t made a state proclamation in support of Sterile Processing Week in the past, write a letter to request that. Use any local media interest in your department’s work to spread the word about SPDs and the crucial work that they do regardless of whether there’s a pandemic. You can also partner with local schools to teach students about sterile processing as a profession.

  1. Get Your Entire Organization Involved

Your SPD can only do its job well if the other departments in your healthcare organization are doing their part, so make sure to involve the rest of your organization in Sterile Processing Week. Broadcast this year’s successes—perhaps through an organization-wide email—and share specific ways that collaboration with other departments has supported your SPD’s success. 

You can also offer ways to improve interdepartmental collaboration and give other departments and colleagues a peek into how the SPD works. For pandemic purposes, consider creating a video tour of the SPD or the reprocessing cycle so that colleagues in other departments can get better acquainted with sterile processing. If your organization has an intranet system that allows you to share digital media internally, you can create materials and content to share there.

  1. Party with the SPD

Celebration within the SPD is crucial for employee morale and retention—not to mention, continued departmental excellence. Take the time to recognize individual team members or particular shifts that consistently go above and beyond in their work. You can also create unique awards (with prizes) to recognize individual staff members for everything from professionalism and timeliness to the much-loved ability to make dull days fun and interesting. Opportunities for professional development, through internal seminars and external certification courses, are also a key part of supporting your SPD. 

International Sterile Processing Week is the perfect time to name and celebrate your SPD’s achievements and call attention—both internally and externally—to the crucial role that SPDs play in the larger healthcare system. Clean, sterile medical instruments aren’t optional. Celebrating SPDs shouldn’t be either.

Resources:

25+ Powerful FOMO Statistics to Skyrocket Sales (2020). January 3, 2020. https://optinmonster.com/fomo-statistics/

ANSI/AAMI ST79, Comprehensive guide to steam sterilization and sterility assurance in health care facilities. 2017

AST Guidelines for Best Practices for Laundering Scrub Attire. April 14, 2017. https://www.ast.org/uploadedFiles/Main_Site/Content/About_Us/Standard%20Laundering%20Scrub%20Attire.pdf

Laundry and textile hygiene in healthcare and beyond. July 1, 2019. http://microbialcell.com/researcharticles/2019a-bockmuehl-microbial-cell/

Role of healthcare apparel and other healthcare textiles in the transmission of pathogens: a review of the literature. March 31, 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7132459/

Study of bacterial flora associated with mobile phones of healthcare workers and non-healthcare workers. June 9, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5719508/

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