Leadership and Quality

Posted by Bioseal

Leadership and Quality

Our sterile processing industry provides resources to develop a quality management system and can be found mainly through AAMI standards, specifically ST90 Quality Systems for Device Processing. It can also be found through the Healthcare Sterile Processing Association (HSPA) certification process for Certified Healthcare Leader (CHL).

These leaders are ultimately called to organize and deliver clean, sterile, and complete surgical instrumentation on time. These goals can be daunting, some of which include education, managing team members, and extensive communication. At times, team members can perform all the right steps in the process, yet the final product may lack quality. For example, the tray of instruments may be missing one of the key components, which leaves the customer in a lurch.

We all know the side effects of a non-quality tray as it affects the surgical team and the patient severely. A non-quality process delays the surgical procedure, which causes extended anesthesia time for the patient, high costs, and in some cases, even cancellation of the procedure. It can be quite deflating to the sterile processing team when we consider all the efforts they took to complete and deliver the tray to the end-user. Not to mention the lack of trust it creates from the operating room team to the SP department.

Where do we begin? To guide us toward quality, the HSPA Leadership certification program provides some clear steps to develop quality within a department. A quality system begins by stating the problem. Once identified, the leadership team gathers to solve the issue by collecting and analyzing the data. Leaders should then meet to determine the cause and devise solutions.

Prepping the plan by Communicating

Creating a plan of action usually starts from the feedback of end-users along with any other data accumulated during the discovery phase. * Before the plan is initiated, the next key to success is communication. The plan, expectations, and tentative deadlines should be shared with internal team members and external customers. Meeting with your customer on a regular basis will allow the leader to remain informed about their perceptions of the level of quality delivered. Satisfaction surveys can also help to identify potential quality improvement issues during the process of implementation. *

Note for Flexibility

Leaders can write a plan of action, and on paper, this action appears to be a path to success. Yet, as we all have attempted these written actionable items, there can be many deterrents. They should have flexibility in mind as they move through their to-do list. By performing pilot tests, the team can change and evaluate the results. The leadership skill of flexibility is very important at this stage when devising the change in a department. Flexibility allows leaders to determine what is not going as expected and can then plan a corrective action and map it out. As the process is evaluated, they may find many challenges. Keeping to the end goal and objective is a key to staying on track and completing the process changes. Looking at one issue at a time helps all involved to stay the course.

Two Approaches*

Quality enables CS leaders to plan goals by identifying key performance indicators that measure goal attainment. Quality Dashboards are great communication and action plan tools. One of the tools is to develop Internal benchmarking which is to benchmark against the departments' own performance. It measures current performance levels, assesses quality in efforts to reduce defects, and may justify budget increases. * The second option is to perform a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) which looks backward at an event. Essentially, this is done after an error has occurred and helps to prevent future occurrences.

In Conclusion, as a leader growing in this industry, my answer to the technician that asked how to be a leader is twofold. As before, my answer is still the same, that leadership is a constant practice and an ever-evolving skill. The second would be to engage with other leaders that study and practice quality assurance measures with a concentration on delivering a quality product to their customers. HSPA states in the leadership certification course that a leader should focus on quality rather than quantity. In our next article, we will share ways to accomplish the quality versus quantity approach.


*HSPA - Healthcare Sterile Processing Association (formerly IAHCSMM). Prometric. (n.d.). Retrieved July 4, 2022, from https://www.prometric.com/HSPA

Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. (2017). Processing of Health Care Products: Quality Management Systems for processing in health care facilities.