Nurses have an incredible opportunity to make a significant difference in their hospitals’ sustainability initiatives. To be sustainable is not limited to environmental concerns; it also refers to financial sustainability, resource sustainability, and maintaining a high quality of care. But how do you become sustainable, especially in all of those categories? One of the best ways to do this is by reprocessing single-use medical devices.

Reprocessing programs are proven solutions that help hospitals redirect resources that can in turn be used towards improving patient care initiatives, including the retention of key nursing staff. Nurses are bastions of knowledge and invaluable caregivers that we cannot afford to lose to budget pressures. In this economic climate, many hospitals struggle to manage resources in a way that is good for care today and even better for care tomorrow. As a result, hospitals have reduced staff numbers, and the ratio of patients to nurses has increased.

As a nurse, I’ve been fortunate to witness first-hand how reprocessing programs can help hospitals safely generate significant savings, with almost no up-front investment and minimal disruptions to workflow and operations. Reprocessed devices are typically half the cost of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) device labeled as ‘single-use.’ Hospitals are also saving money that would be spent on special handling and waste management of the OEM devices. Much of the waste produced in operating rooms are disposed of as regulated medical waste, which costs 10 to 15 times more to dispose of than other categories of waste. Reprocess- ing programs mitigate these costs. The best third-party reprocessing companies collect the devices from the hospital, regardless of whether they can be reprocessed, and sort them back at the reprocessing facility. The devices that cannot be reprocessed are discarded and broken down into component parts to be recycled to the extent possible.

These cost savings can be a substantial boost towards helping hospitals to retain or even enhance the quality of care in tough economic times. What’s more is that nurses can have a direct influence on the success of the reprocessing program and ultimately the hospital’s overall savings results. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get involved and make a difference. Here are the top five ways that nurses can improve results from a reprocessing program.

Do Research

Learn to separate fact from misinformation or personal impressions when it comes to reprocessing. Though third-party medical device reprocessing is subject to strict FDA regulatory guidelines, it is not uncommon to encounter the belief that reprocessing refers to in-house cleaning and sterilization of reusable instrumentation. Ask questions and conduct research from credible sources to get educated on third- party SUD reprocessing, its process- es and its regulatory standards. The savings potential is too great to be offset by inaccuracies. It is estimated that the health care industry would save nearly $2 billion every year if just 1 or 2 percent of devices marked “single-use” by device manufacturers were reprocessed through an FDA-regulated third-party reprocessor. The more you know, the more successful your program will be.

Get Involved

A key to the program’s success is having initial frontline buy-in from staff. Nurses can be early adopters and advocates for the program, which helps to get others involved. The most successful reprocessing programs are led by people who champion reprocessing as an essential part of smart health care re- source management. Keep staff up to speed by regularly sharing your reprocessing program’s environmental and financial results. Staff will be encouraged by hearing how many pounds of waste they’ve helped divert and how much money they’ve helped save. The more involved your staff is, the more savings you’ll generate. As the success of the program grows, you’ll continue to maximize your savings and waste reduction potential.

Communicate And Collaborate

Use a two-way street of communication with management, colleagues and physicians throughout the facility. Healthy, active dialogue will help to avoid miscommunication and missed opportunities and will encourage engagement in and support for the program. You should also collaborate on ways to meet your reprocessing goals and enhance your program to make sure no savings opportunities are left behind. Your reprocessing partner is a great resource to use in identifying areas of improvement and is available to answer any questions throughout the program. The minute you, your colleague or your manager has a question, contact your rep for up-to-date answers and tips for best practices.

Identify Areas Of Expansion

If reprocessing is being implemented in just one area of the hospital, there are savings possibilities that exist in other parts of the hospital as well, including the OR, EP and Cath labs, as well as many patient care areas. If you notice areas of the program that need improvement or identify a department that could benefit from program expansion, let your leaders know and advocate for maximizing savings potential throughout the entire hospital system.

Stay Educated

Continuing education programs are an easy way to stay up-to-speed on industry trends while fulfilling needed continuing education credits. Stryker Sustainability Solutions offers free, accredited continuing education programs about sustain- ability practices that are tailored specifically for all hospital-based registered nurses, technicians and administrators. For more information, visit sustainability.stryker.com/ resources/continuing-education.

Implementing a reprocessing program is one of the best ways for hospitals to reduce costs and possibly redirect those savings towards holding on to one of the most valuable resources in the system: qualified, talented caregivers. All staff members involved, including nurses, can influ- ence the success of the program. Get involved to reach maximum savings potential, and see the difference you can make, both in your facility and the industry as a whole.

Caryn Humphrey, RN, BSN, MBA, is a product manager at Stryker Sustainability Solutions. Caryn is a member of AORN, the Business Industry and Consulting Specialty Assembly and the Leadership Specialty Assembly. Caryn started her nursing practice in a Med/ Surg unit, then moved to surgery where she worked in both a hospital OR and an ambulatory surgery center. For more information about reprocessing, visit www.sustainability.stryker.com or www.protectoursavings.com.