Surgical Instrument Set Cleaning: Why Proactivity Matters

Posted on May 29, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

As consumers, we go to great lengths to ensure the oil in our car is changed regularly or that the appliances we depend on so greatly are in peak working order and perform as we need them to perform. We buy extended warrantees and maintenance plans to cover the possible breakdown of our cellular phones, computers and flat-screen televisions in an effort to maintain the standard of living we have become accustomed to.

Quite often, we instinctively spend additional hard-earned dollars to ensure that those things that make our lives more comfortable and enjoyable function the way they were intended to function — all to support our quality of life.

As clinical professionals working in the sterile processing department, we have a direct impact on the quality of life of others. The instrumentation that we process must be cleaned, decontaminated and sterilized before it can be used on the next patient. The way we maintain the surgical instruments that we clean, inspect and package for use can have a profound impact on the outcome of any patient procedure. With this in mind, our professional integrity challenges us to find ways to promote patient safety.

To ensure the positive outcome of a surgical procedure where these instruments are being used, we must invest in the same proactive approach we apply to preserve our own “quality of life." By implementing these “preventive maintenance plans" on our surgical tools, we can safeguard our monetary investments and more importantly, our patients’ safety and continued quality of life.

With even the simplest procedures, a reactive instrument-management plan can severely impact a patient’s experience — and subsequent quality of life. For instance, if a patient is scheduled for a procedure that requires anesthesia, this procedure will provide the tissue biopsy that the laboratory will use to determine

the presence of cancer. The patient is in pre-op holding. First, imagine how the patient feels. Every second seems like an eternity. Imagine the anxiety of the patient and their family as they wait for the results of the biopsy. Ten minutes before the patient is to arrive in the operating room, the circulating nurse receives a call from the sterile processing department reporting that the instruments for the case are not ready due to “technical difficulties." In other words, instruments are not in full functional order and are being pieced together at the last moment — the patient and the family anxiously wait.

Now take this same scenario where everything appears to be moving as planned. The instruments are delivered to the operating room and prepared for the procedure. However, as the surgery begins, the surgeon asks for a pair of scissors to dissect and excise the suspicious tissue from the patient’s body, only to find that the scissors are dull. She now must ask for another pair, leaving the patient under anesthesia longer than necessary as the new pair of scissors are found, prepped and brought to the operating room.

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