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Building the Foundation Pillars for Your Sterile Processing Department

Like all business models, you must establish foundation pillars for your sterile processing department. Without a well-established plan for success, the likelihood of developing a quality program is minimal. Six key foundation pillars will help you establish a well-rounded business plan to support your customers and your staff.

Orientation Program

Whether you have seasoned employees or not, an in-depth orientation plan establishes boundaries for the staff and creates a unified expectation. The orientation plan should be written, and everybody in the Central Sterile Supply Department should be oriented to the processes, space, and goals of the department. Establishing key individuals in the department to act as preceptors helps to eliminate variation in the orientation process. Using a train the trainer process helps validate that the preceptors are competent and fully understand the orientation process.

Competency Program

Competencies are used as an extension of the orientation process. Validating the staff's capabilities provides feedback and indicates that the staff understands your processes and can duplicate each task's expectations and goals. Initial onboarding programs should have competencies covering all aspects of the department's key areas, such as decontamination, assembly, sterilization, high-level disinfection, and any other areas with patient safety risks. Future competencies should be developed to support high-risk tasks that are usually accompanied by low utilization.

Quality Assurance Program

A quality assurance program helps to evaluate key factors in the department by establishing performance metrics. The sustainability of key processes metrics is directly tied to staff orientation and competency. Continued surveillance of your department helps you analyze whether or not processes are hard-wired. Once your metrics are controlled, move on to other processes needing improvement.

Education Plan

Providing education and creating an education plan are two different actions. Utilizing continuing education (CE's) is a great way to keep your staff updated on best practices. Planning education based on risk assessments and quality assurance reviews is a focused process based on the department's unique needs. Each year a new education plan should be established to help you meet your new goals.

Risk Mitigation Assessments

Completing an annual risk assessment establishes the thresholds for all of the four pillars above. Not knowing your risk is like using a map without a compass to point you in the right direction.

Succession Planning

Lastly, develop redundancy within your department staffing plan. During construction planning, we develop safety protocols so that if a machine goes offline, our customer service is not affected. We need to do the same with our staff. Key positions in the department need a backup plan. Developing leaders in your department does much more than creating a stop-gap. It creates individuals that know how to support each of the department's pillars.


Just showing up for work, albeit admirable, especially in the CSSD department, does not set us up for success. Build a business plan for your department by establishing foundational pillars. Provide feedback to the staff to know what success looks like and support them with data and education to help them get there.

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