Sterile processing (SP) continues to gain momentum and importance within the healthcare environment as more and more as the media puts it in the spotlight. As SP professionals it is your responsibility to ensure your patients receive the safest possible care. Working toward continuous quality improvement (CQI) means knowing and following the most current evidence based guidelines (EBG), standards and recommended practices such as from the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) and the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI).
Following EBG usually means changes to our historical practices or “sacred cows” (the way we have always done it). However, it is not easy to execute changes, especially when the adjustments affect other people or other departments, even if it is scientifically proven as a safer practice. Therefore, collaboration with our colleagues is necessary to making strides in our CQI efforts, especially if additional resources (e.g., equipment, human) will be needed.
When you run into resistance to improvement changes for safe patient care, having a multidisciplinary committee that understands the most current guidelines can help support the change. However, there may be times when someone or some department can be that bump in the road. In that case, you need to share the evidence behind the change to help explain why the new policy or procedure is necessary for safe patient care.
One case in point is the efforts to reduce immediate-use steam sterilization (IUSS) cycles. Since IUSS cycles are usually preformed in the operating room suite, SP needs their support to establish the changes. The change efforts will involve the operating room and may need the support of infection prevention (IP) staff as well. Another effort is moving all endoscope reprocessing under SP for standardization and consistency. Of course, this change may involve the GI lab, Respiratory Therapy, Anesthesia, Urology, as well as the IP. Therefore, changes like reducing IUSS or putting endoscope reprocessing under SP will require a multidisciplinary team to update the policies and procedures based on EBG to address the necessary changes. This team should educate the other staff members on the changes to the policies. The education should include the rationale for the changes and evidence behind it. Staff are usually more compliant with new procedure changes if they understand the reason behind the updates.