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Are You Thinking About Renovating Your Sterile Processing Department? Remodeling 101, Part 1

Renovating a sterile processing department takes time, patience, and perseverance. A large part of the process is design input. My first recommendation is don't go it alone. If you are a sterile processing manager, make sure your voice is heard and develop a team to support you. I have renovated many sterile processing spaces, and I have yet to find an architectural team that was on point when designing a sterile processing area. Most architectural firms don't ask enough questions about your current challenges. Usually, they plan the space to some predisposed idea of the equipment and process flow that they believe you will need.

My second recommendation is to meet with several equipment manufacturers. Find the equipment that will meet your volume, now and in the future, and plan for redundancy to help manage equipment downtime and future expansion. Current throughput statistics and planned growth should help drive your choice. Good customer service after the sale is also essential. I have worked with several large equipment manufacturers and uptime, although it varies some, is somewhat equivalent. What makes the difference is the technical support of the equipment. Technical support can vary quite a bit depending on where in the country you are working. Talk to other local hospitals in your region and find out what equipment they are using and whether or not they are satisfied with the service they are receiving. Cost is always a factor in driving the final decision, but don't let it be the only reason you choose your equipment.

Now that you have developed your equipment plan, you need to ensure that the building can support them. This is when your Building Services team comes in to play. First of all, you should already have someone from Building Services supporting you as a project planner. Designing the support systems for your equipment, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc., all come into play so that your department design is successful during and after construction. Even knowing the layout of what is already installed in the floors when pits are needed is essential. Vetting all of the components of the operational needs of the equipment is a must. A case in point, a sterilizer installed in one of my projects needed a specific incoming water temperature to operate effectively. The test was completed and was satisfactory. However, the completed test was in later Winter/Early Spring. The unit was installed, and it worked flawlessly until the heat of August. The temperature of the water in the local reservoir that the city was drawing from had risen enough to create an issue. A reworked of the sterilizer system was needed to correct the problems. Who knew? If the equipment requirements aren't supported satisfactorily, you may need to go back to the drawing board.

This blog series is intended to be a synopsis of my thoughts relating to my career and my experiences of the last 38 years in sterile processing. That being said, this blog content will be a multipart series because of the length and depth of the content I am going to cover. As a sterile processing manager, I have been blessed with the opportunity to help design multiple sterile process departments, ambulatory reprocessing areas, GI reprocessing areas, and some outpatient medical reprocessing areas. My goal is to impart some of the knowledge I gained from participating in these projects. Come back next week for more discussion.

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