Updated: Mar 10, 2022
The sterile processing department has always been looked at as a supporting department and not as a revenue-producing department. Thus, it is challenging to create worth for the department. The truth is that CSSD (central sterile services department) supports departments that contribute millions of dollars to the hospital and healthcare networks. Without the work produced in this department, patient care in many areas with either cease to exists or become much more challenging to manage.
In the 1980s, a trend to move workloads from healthcare professionals (e.g., RN's) to CSSD began. The idea was to allow the practitioners more time with their patients for better patient care and to reduce the cost of tasks that could be performed by less technically trained individuals, which in turn also reduced costs. CSSD moved into the operational aspect of supporting surgery by not only sterilizing the instruments but by now producing the trays for surgery too. Salaries in sterile processing never progressed with the new burden of accountability for patient care.
Everything that CSSD does today can significantly impact the care of the patient and either helps reduce or increases the cost of patient care. Millions of dollars of surgical instruments pass through the department each year. Each of them offers an opportunity for success or failure, either by eliminating a chance for infection or creating one. The management of the cost of the surgical instrument inventory, sterilization and decontamination equipment, and even hospital patient care equipment can run into the millions of dollars each year.
Only well-trained managers, supervisors, and technicians provided the necessary professionalism we need in this department to reduce risk and create fiscal responsibility for the enterprise. As leaders in this field, we need to craft our story to create worth for this department. There have been many articles written about the value of nursing certifications— benefits to the patients, employers, and of course, the nurses themselves. Certifications are often listed as a driver for salary increases and promotions. CSSD should be no different.
Changes occur in the sterile processing technicians as knowledge increases, just as in nursing. It is the return on investment (ROI) that counts. Start building your department's story by crafting value around the sterile processing technician and your department's value in patient care. Include the risk reduction with the gaining of professional knowledge with certifications, and last, the impact of a world without CSSD. Many consultants can outline what they have seen and experienced in poor-performing areas where CSSD was not involved in infection prevention. Improving performance is where the ROI is most important.
At Evolved Sterile Processing, our consultants have a greater focus on sterile processing. With our decades of experience, we will help you develop better processes and educational resources for your staff.