Education in all stages of life is invaluable. Continuous education in our work lives is critical. With our rapidly changing world, the ability to continually educate ourselves is necessary to maintain the edge in our chosen fields. Those who don’t keep up will be left behind and ultimately risk losing their job.
The Sterile Processing Department world is no different. Arguably, continuous education in healthcare is even more vital than other industries because we are dealing with people’s lives. Organizations such as IAHCSMM and CBSPD provide employees the opportunity to learn the theories of the industry. They provide a consistent ability to measure knowledge at all levels. Often self-education allows employees to be tested on that knowledge and earn certifications. In the last few years, employers have started to recognize the benefits of having certified employees. This is especially true with commissioning bodies such as DNV or Joint Commission. These organizations recognize the importance of consistency in the understanding of the regulations and recommendations. This understanding can only be achieved when there is a dedicated, system-wide educator in a place whose sole purpose is to manage the education of their staff.
The much-needed consistent education is a key factor in Central Sterile / Sterile Processing Department success, yet far too few healthcare organizations invest in their employees’ education and training in this department. As someone who has worked in CS/SPD over the years, I have seen this firsthand. Other departments, such as nursing, radiology, and even the operating room, prioritize educating their staff and have dedicated educators in place. However, with the CS/SPD, it’s hit and miss. The lack of education affects all aspects of recruiting, overall morale, and retention. This is especially true with larger CS/SPD departments when leadership is wearing multiple hats, and education is not a priority. Without someone dedicated to educating employees, education becomes inconsistent. When education is inconsistent, how can someone understand the nature of their job and do it well?
Leadership needs to understand and support the availability of continuous staff education as an essential leadership technique to improve services and care for patients. Unfortunately, in the CS/SPD, the educator is often an afterthought of many leaders. The Sterile Processing Department is a continual learning environment. The importance of this is especially evident when the staff is a group of seasoned employees. They can become complacent, thus adopting the attitude of “been there, done that.” They need continuous training almost more than the new employees.
I realize that not all CS/SPD are the same. Some CS/SPD’s have one employee, while others have up to 50. Having a system educator who coordinates and facilitates training is vital to ensuring the education is consistent and constant. While there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, there is so much to be gained by giving priority to educating staff. An educated staff is undoubtedly more engaged and happier with their work. When they see their employer is investing in their education just like other departments, they will feel equally valued and appreciated.
David Bierwirth ST, CRCST, CHL