Modern surgery is miraculous in its ability to save lives and improve the quality of life for many patients. However, the cornerstone of the surgical field’s many advancements—and, in many ways, the modern healthcare system—is a hospital’s ability to keep surgical tools and other equipment that contacts patients completely sterile. That’s where the sterile processing department comes in. Let’s review some of the facts about sterile processing in Sacramento that make this service so valuable for keeping patients healthy here in California, and around the world.
What Is Sterile Processing and How Is It Done?
Sterile processing is an area of medicine and hospital administration that has evolved over many years and remains one of the most crucial services in a hospital. The sterile processing department is an area of the hospital, directly connected to the operating rooms, that treats instruments used in surgical operations which can then be washed and repackaged for continued use. Sterile processing isn’t just washing an instrument, however.
In order to be reused and prevent the spread of infection, sterile processing uses a variety of methods to completely remove any harmful microorganisms or medical contaminants. The most common types of decontamination processes include combinations of steam sterilization services, low-temperature gas, and liquid sterilization. Of the devices used to sterilize medical equipment, the autoclave is perhaps the most important. It uses high-temperature steam and pressure to kill microorganisms on the surface of heat and moisture-tolerant medical equipment. However, the type of decontamination process required usually comes down to an instrument or tool’s use, material construction, and other factors.
What Is the Significance of Sterile Processing?
Secondary infection in hospitals is one of the gravest threats facing patients and healthcare providers alike and is responsible for thousands of deaths every year. When a patient undergoes any type of treatment, but surgery especially, the instruments and equipment that contact their body become potential vectors for the spread of disease. Sterile processing allows hospitals and operating rooms to function with minimal risk of spreading disease between patients.
Sterile processing is so important to the function of healthcare facilities that it is often the oldest department in many buildings, with additional wings and structures built around it throughout the building’s lifetime. Any construction or maintenance to the building is often performed with sterile processing in mind, meaning that work is performed in a way least likely to interrupt the work of the department, and it is only closed when absolutely necessary.
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What You Should Know About Sterile Processing
The facts about sterile processing in Sacramento aren’t necessarily different than any other healthcare facility in America. Hospitals are required to abide by codes and procedures developed by the American National Standards Institute’s Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (ANSI/AAMI), which include what is used to sterilize medical equipment, how long instruments need to be processed, things to look out for during visual equipment inspections, etc. Any healthcare facility following these codes will have a functional, responsible sterile processing department, but there are a few major considerations that sterile processing technicians take into account while working. These include.
Need to Follow Instructions
Every medical device comes with highly-specific instructions from the manufacturer on the sterilization procedures required, and while most of them this information is complete and readily accessible, there are times when incomplete instructions can lead to many hours of online research, phone calls, and faxes on behalf of the sterilization technician. The time needed to process each piece of equipment depends on manufacturer instructions, as they may need to be disassembled or processed in some other way before treatment. All of these factors combined with the volume of instruments impact the total processing time, which can take several hours.
Need to Wait for Items to Cool Completely
According to the AAMI code, instruments that have been sterilized cannot be handled until they have cooled completely—which can take from 30 minutes to two hours depending on the instruments’ weight and density. In addition to being important safety considerations for both sterilization technicians and patients, this can add to the overall processing time.
Sterile Processing Technicians Require Lots of Training
Because sterile processing is so integral to the work that hospitals perform, same again here. Sterile processing technicians must undergo extensive training with competency verification. Sterile processing technicians are required to be certified according to AAMI/ANSI regulations. Extensive training ensures the safety of the devices being processed and helps prevent employee injuries, such as burns from steam sterilizers, as well as cross-contamination.
Sterile processing is the beating heart of any properly structured medical facility, allowing doctors and other personnel to perform their duties while keeping patients—and themselves—safe. Without properly trained sterilization technicians, this important hospital service can quickly become a liability instead of an assurance. ERD’s medical instrument sterilization technicians offer sterilizer monitoring services in Sacramento and are constantly updating our procedures and processes to ensure that your department is compliant and up to date with regulatory groups like AAMI, IAHCSMM, and The Joint Commission. Contact us today to learn more about our services and the importance of sterile processing.