By Julie E. Williamson

Each year, beginning the second Sunday of October, International Central Service Week (celebrated Oct. 13-19 this year), recognizes Central Service/Sterile Processing (CS/SP) professionals for their enduring commitment to quality, patient safety and professionalism – and the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Professionals (IAHCSMM) urges every CS/SP department and health care professional in every facility to celebrate the discipline’s hard work and vital contributions.

I vividly recall the first time I toured a hospital CS/SP department. It was 1997 when I visited a hospital just outside Savannah, Ga., as a naïve reporter who had, up until that time, only written about the world of sterile processing. Shortly after arriving to the department, I found myself “bunny-suited” up and had my eyes opened to the vital and challenging roles and responsibilities of sterile processing. I vividly recall the sweltering, almost suffocating heat of the decontamination area, and how the technicians meticulously scrubbed, brushed and flushed instrument after instrument, all without complaint. I also recall the breadth of knowledge involved in proper tray assembly and how impressed I was with the team of technicians who could rattle off the names of each instrument and almost instinctively know how to process, disassemble, assemble and carefully handle each one. Mostly, I remember how passionate the team seemed in doing each step correctly, and how patient the team members were in showing me the ropes. This experience, and my other visits that came later, have given me a far better understanding and appreciation of the CS/SP profession – and continues to serve as invaluable fodder for my CS/SP-related writing.

It also makes me and my IAHCSMM colleagues passionate about celebrating the profession and all who comprise it, and encouraging every CS/SP professional, Surgical Services team member (and other CS/SP health care customers), C-level executives, infection preventionists and more to join in the celebration and pay tribute to these hard-working, dedicated instrumentation and sterilization experts.

Celebrating well (on any budget)

Although limited budgets are not uncommon, CS/SP professionals can still effectively celebrate CS Week on a shoestring budget with the help of some creativity, brainstorming and group participation – and even some assistance from other departments, such as the Operating Room, Endoscopy, Labor & Delivery, and beyond.

What follows are some top tips for creating a memorable, fun and educational CS Week that drives strong participation, but without breaking the bank:

Honor the Team through Professional Growth

CS Week is a perfect time to reflect on professional development. Contact a local vendor to provide an educational inservice and consider inviting members from other departments, such as the OR, to participate as well. Create a poster for the department that highlights a success story (or several) that occurred in the past year, or a bulletin board with staff pictures and employment history. Managers may also ask C-level executives if they will be willing to fund a certification scholarship for staff to become certified, or they may agree to help distribute certificates to employees who helped achieve departmental goals. Managers may also send a personal note or card to each member of their team to thank them for their contributions toward better patient safety and care. These types of personalized tokens of appreciation cost virtually nothing but can go a long way toward improving employee satisfaction and morale.

Build Interest Early for Greatest Participation/Impact

Don’t limit CS Week events just to those within the department. Let other health care professionals in the facility and members of the general community know about International CS Week well in advance and share with them why celebrating the profession is so important.

Consider placing CS Week-inspired ads in facility newsletters, post flyers in common areas and, perhaps, even consider writing an article or press release for local newspapers that outlines the facility’s CS Week plans/events (the facility’s human resources and/or public relations teams can help get the word out effectively). The more aware others are of the event, the more likely they will be to participate and lend support.

Celebrate the Entire Week

Create a different educational/celebratory opportunity for every day of CS Week. Consider an open house for one day, for example, and recruit vendors to provide educational inservices on another one or two days. Host a lunch, dinner or dessert social, and invite team members from the OR, Infection Prevention and Endoscopy, for example, as well as C-level executives, elected officials and others to participate. While these individuals are present, keep them engaged with educational offerings, such as process demonstrations, videos or standards-based trivia games. Light snacks and refreshments also serve to draw (and keep) receptive crowds.

Court Collaboration

In the weeks and days leading up to CS Week, work with health care customers and create poster presentations, bulletin boards or hands-on demonstrations on how each department can assist CS/SP (and vice versa) in doing their job more effectively and efficiently. Stressing the importance of proper point-of-care treatment of instruments (e.g., wiping off gross soil, keeping instruments moist during and ensuring instruments are transported promptly to decontamination after their use) and reminding team members of the importance of diligent instrument inspection and ensuring that instruments are sharp and well-maintained are just a few examples that could be shared to promote quality and teamwork.

Honor Other Departments

CS/SP professionals can garner greater support for CS Week (and their profession, in general), if they take time to honor and recognize their health care customers/partners for their efforts and contributions throughout the year. Infection Prevention Week also falls in October, and this offers a prime opportunity for CS/SP professionals and IPs to partner and create a unified front during each profession’s dedicated week. The same is true of Perioperative Nurse Week, which is celebrated in November. Consider thanking these professionals with a heartfelt note of gratitude and/or delivering baked goods during their respective celebratory weeks, and don’t forget to ask how members of the CS/SP team can help honor their profession. Reciprocation is invaluable for driving support and keeping appreciation going long after each department’s designated week of celebration draws to a close.

For more CS Week ideas and inspiration, visit https://www.iahcsmm.org/events/cs-week.html.