Is it beneficial to staff sterile processing departments with surgical technologists? Will this increase patient safety and decrease case delays? Can you tell me if certified surgical technologists have a role in your sterile departments?

A: Surgical techs have their place. Several of my sterile processing techs have gone on to become surg techs and RNs. However, sterile processing is a career choice in and of itself and should be respected and promoted as such. The financial remuneration should be equal to the job responsibility. Sterile processing techs and the work they perform “behind the scenes” is vital to a smooth running OR. I consider sterile processing techs to be the “first assists” to the OR. We need to be one step ahead of the OR just to keep up. Sterile processing techs are on the same team and should be granted the respect of being included in all decisions in the daily running of the OR. Invest in your sterile processing techs and treat them no differently than you would a surg tech or RN. They, we and I have earned it. Pay them well, certify them and offer continuing education. A great sterile processing tech is worth their weight in gold. Many of my best employees have come from environmental services and food services. They are grateful for a different path and want to learn more and do more. Tap into that.

A: While surgical techs may know their instruments well, there is much more to our profession than the instruments. Your money would be better spent by paying your sterile processing techs more, certifying them and including them in every aspect of “Surgical Services.” We are critical in the fight for infection control (as is environmental services too). Here at our facility, new OR nurses and scrub techs must spend days in the sterile processing department to get a better understanding of how vital our working relationship is to surgical services and how best we can work together as a team and make no mistake, we are a team. Every day I meet with the OR director, the OR clinical manager and materials management. We go over the OR schedule, for three days out, to review instrument needs, conflicts in equipment needs and incoming loaners. We are well respected and included in decisions that affect the day as well we should be. Truthfully, every director of surgical services would be smart to spend one whole day in SPD and I implore you to do so. I apologize if I sound like I am preaching, that is not my intent. Again, your money would be better served in sterile processing.

A: That is well said and so true.