Friday, October 13, 2017

Five important questions to ask SPD candidates during the interview

by Casey S. Czarnowski, BA, CRST, CIS

This is part four of HIGH FIVE, a multi-part series on leading a successful and fulfilling sterile processing career. 
Excited for a career in healthcare, perusing post-secondary education or certification, or looking to move out of mom and dad’s house describe common candidates for positions in Sterile Processing departments across much of the country.  In other areas, notably the West Coast and those states prescient enough to make Certification into law, local college programs train persons for the important work of sterile processing.  These regions enjoy educated applicants to choose from.  In both cases, the interview is a crucial and exciting third step in building the best care team to serve your patients.

Many healthcare facilities do not require education or experience for Sterilization technicians upon hire; training and certification come on-the-job.  John Strothenke, Manager of the Sterile Processing Department at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital/Denali Center notes, “We typically do not have a pool of fully qualified candidates that apply from Fairbanks and a majority of the people we hire have little or no experience in SPD.”  Likewise, in the upper Midwest post-secondary courses in Sterile Processing are few and far between.  Amy East, CFER, Endoscopy Support Specialist for the Central Region for Olympus America, relates that most of the facilities that she visits are, “starting to ask the question about certification.”  She feels that facilities in her territory are just starting to put Certification into play.

Conversely, there are markets where Certification is common and expected.  Vahini Kuppa, CRCST, CSPM, Manager of the Sterile Processing Department at Seattle Children's Hospital, related a story about a time that she hired an uncertified applicant.  Vahini said that the applicant worked out well, but that it was an unusual step for her to hire a person who had not been through a certification course.

Whether you hire from of a pool of educated and certified persons, or you must choose from among the willing but inexperienced, there are a few questions that are good indicators of future success in your department. So, what are some good indicators of an applicant who will be successful in your department?

Here are 5 solid approaches to take during a CS/SPD interview.

1.  Everyone relax.
Sterile Processing and Materiel Management are stressful, fast-paced jobs.  However, an ambush interview is not the best way to get an applicant for this work to open up and give honest answers about themselves.  Healthcare Inventory Control is not the Chicago Board of Trade.  Eric Toone, Operations Supervisor CPU at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle Washington believes that asking simple questions of interviewees, such as their favorite sports team, makes them relax and give a more honest interview.

2.  What do you know about this type of work?
This question gives educated interviewees a chance to show off the knowledge that they have gained in their studies.  The educated, certified person should be able to speak to the lessons that they took in their studies in a clear way, and participate in general (not manufacturer-specific) discussion about the equipment and varied work of the CS/SPD department.  A well-educated candidate should be able to discuss basic microbiology, standards and regulations, and inventory systems, along with sterilization methods and instrument manufacture.
Applicants without education in sterile processing have a real chance to shine on this question.  When a candidate has spent time researching the job they have chosen to apply for, it shows initiative and a genuine curiosity about the work.  A great candidate will have researched the specialized work of sterile processing and inventory management.  They will have watched videos on the internet, or talked with friends who work in the field.  Having done some research into the work indicates a strong interest in the profession, and is a good indicator of a person who will work to learn the job completely.

3.  What are your expectations of this job and our company?
Good interviewers ask this question of every candidate.  If during the interview you have set a relaxed tone and encouraged open dialogue, the interviewee will be forthcoming about their plans.  Some will be looking to open a door to a career in healthcare, frank about their plans to progress into other disciplines in the facility.  Others will indicate that they are looking for a solid job with reasonable pay and benefits.  If the candidate is educated or experienced, they may talk about Preceptorship or Leadership. Encouraging honesty in this phase of the interview allows all parties to know what to expect of the potential team member.
4.  If we called your favorite boss or instructor right now, what would they tell us about you?
This question often catches candidates off-guard.  Interviewees frequently sit back, look at the ceiling and smile, remembering a well-liked supervisor.  When an interviewee is asked a question in this vein, it puts them in mind of successful work experiences, and elicits an honest answer as to their work habits and personality.  One job of a manager is to help their employees work to their best potential; here is when they see what that potential is.

5.  How did you hear about this position?
In the world of many CS/SPD managers, this telling question lets them know where their most important avenues for recruiting are.  In regions that are not favored with accessible college courses, HR should be given feedback about where successful interview candidates receive information about their open positions.  Interviewers can help Human Resources to create the widest possible pool of applicants by asking a question like this.  Patients win in the end by having the best people working in each aspect of their care.

Selecting the right candidates to interview is the second step in building your Central Supply or Sterile Processing department; good managers rely on a mix of experience and instinct in this process. By asking interviewees where they heard about the position for which they applied, Managers help their Human Resources departments in the first step, to identify the most effective places to advertise positions in their facilities. Then, following the interview and successful negotiation with a solid orientation program makes the successful applicant into a successful partner in the care of our patients.  By setting the right tone, and asking the best questions, Central Supply and Sterile Processing departments can be assured that they are providing the best possible care.

Friday, September 29, 2017



The Greater Accra Area, Ghana


Animal Services & Welfare Community Development 

Dental Clinic 
Dental Services & Care 
Disability & Low Income Services Educational Programs 
Emergency Response 
Homeless Support Services 
Maternal Health & Infant Care
Medical Clinics & Hospitals 
Medical Missions

Countries served 8 35
Orders shipped 79 569
Charity partners 42 139
Product sent ($M) 1.5 33.2


To improve the delivery of healthcare worldwide by gathering, processing and distributing surplus medical and health supplies to charities at home and abroad.

Ghana, home to more than 25 million Africans, is a developing country in western Africa. Its healthcare system, introduced in 2003 by former president John Kufuor, has been lauded internationally, though sometimes criticized locally. It is a definite improvement from the “cash-and-carry” healthcare system used previously, in which care, even in emergencies, was only provided after payment was made. Despite the improvements, Ghana’s healthcare scene is still a work-in-progress. The doctor-to-patient ratio is roughly 1:15,000, worse than the World Health Organization’s recommended rate of 1:600. And care in rural areas can be scarce, leading some to choose local traditional healers rather than undertake the 15-mile trek to school-trained doctors and nurses.

Doctor Nathan Kwablah is one of these school-trained doctors. Born in Ghana, he left his native land to pursue a degree in medicine from St. George’s University in Grenada. He is now a medical officer practicing in Accra, Ghana’s capital city. He has a great love for Ghana and desires to be involved in its development, medically and otherwise. In addition to his career pursuits, Dr. Kwablah is the president of XTAN Medical Aid, a Christian medical mission non-profit that provides care in rural areas of Ghana where it is needed most. Using gloves and other items obtained from Globus Relief on a regular basis, Dr. Kwablah and his associates provide medical and dental care through their rural outreach programs. Excess items are donated by XTAN to needy local medical institutions. Dr. Kwablah is an apt demonstration that even just one man, or one donation, can make a difference.

Globus Relief is Your Humanitarian Non-Profit Inventory Solution. Please contact us if you have medical or dental equipment, instruments, and supplies or other resources available for donation.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Poll-It Bureau


The Joint Commission’s recently published study on how no industry consensus exists on what a “high-performing” healthcare delivery system means induces laborious thoughts of a Christopher Nolan film.

Standards and standard definitions remain incognito.

Evaluating, adopting and implementing potential solutions to this leaves many with insomnia.

Regulating, governing and discerning bodies remain incorrigibly incommunicado.


It should leave us with some sense of indignation.

Is there an exception? Only in your MMIS or ERP Supply Chain module field codes.

We really need an inception.

The Joint Commission’s review of a decade’s worth of literature (2005-2015 to be precise) found no consistent definition of the “high-performing” nebulous and non-descript epaulet when applied to such dimensions as cost, quality, access, equity and patient experience and safety or any combination.

No evidence apparently shielded it from variability.

The Joint Commission deserves accolades for shining a black light on this white sheet of branding, marketing and promotional hubris — even if many of us suspected unbridled hyperbole with a Dwayne Johnson eyebrow raise.

What’s the first step in those 12-step programs? Admit you have a problem.

But “high-performing” as a jingoistic appellation isn’t the only fuzzy ingredient in our fizzy water.

In an industry that prides itself in pursuing the need for standards, the players could strive to accept and adopt standard definitions and parameters in a variety of areas.

To wit: Here are a few that have haunted readers of Healthcare Purchasing News for at least four decades (had to work in a shameless plug for HPN’s 40th anniversary this year).

  • Annual purchasing volume (APV) of group purchasing organizations (GPOs)
  • Descriptions and descriptive categories of product attributes for more efficient comparison (branding differentiators can be customer service)
  • Validated instructions for use (IFU) for effective sterile processing of devices
  • CPT and ICD-10 codes that allow very little or virtually no level of human interpretation rooted in subjectivity (thwarting the “gaming of the system” to maximize reimbursement)
  • Key performance indicators
  • Functional job descriptions for Supply Chain professionals — even the ones hovering around vaporous strategic objectives
  • Causal factors of a variety of hospital-acquired infections with reasonably detailed traceability factors
  • Total cost of ownership
  • Value-based purchasing — centered on the application of insurance
  • Value analysis and management via evidence-based planning and outcomes

Back in the Clintonian healthcare reforming 1990s, doctors bristled at the notion of clinical pathways as “cookbook medicine” because it left virtually no room for variability and the individuality of the patient. Noted. You should find little motivation to dismantle the logic behind the need for standard definitions for financial management and operations. Call it “cookbook management and operations” if you want, but that measure should lead to effectiveness and hopefully efficiency down the road, which should trump complaints long-term.

Which ones have we missed? Let me know at

Rick Dana Barlow

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Five ways to Ace a Central Supply or Sterile Processing job interview

by Casey S. Czarnowski, BA, CRST, CIS

This is part three of HIGH FIVE, a multi-part series on leading a successful and fulfilling sterile processing career. 

In your pursuit of a job in Sterile Processing, Central Service or Materiel Management, a great resume will get you the interview, but a great interview will get you the job.

Being contacted to set up an interview is an exciting time. It’s also the time to begin to prepare for the big day. Just as you wouldn’t go hunting without surveying the lay of the land, you shouldn’t go interviewing without investigating the job you hope to get. If you were fortunate enough to have taken a college course in Sterile Processing, you are significantly ahead of the game; but other applicants for the position will have comparable experience. Doing some interview-specific preparation will position you in the best spot to get the job.

Lori Dauner, Career Advisor to high school students at West Fargo High School in North Dakota, says “Make sure you understand why the position is open and the long term plans with the position. I would also suggest that they inquire about a mentorship program and find out if the program has a support system for new employees and, if so, how long would the support system be in place prior to the new employee needing to understand the job expectations independently. Another important question is to ask who their direct boss would be and, if unexpected barriers arise, what is the best way to contact the direct boss and how often would they be in direct contact with their supervisor?”

Although you will not be able to predict what questions will be asked in the interview, what the setting will be, or what types of personalities you will be interacting with, there are things you can do to prepare yourself. Here are five strategies that will help you ace an interview for a CS/SPD position.

1. Research the role: Sterile processing, materiel management and central service careers are not common career choices for most people. If you have not taken a course in Sterile Processing, you will be well-served to research the role that CS/SPD technicians play in the hospital before applying for the job. It can help to watch videos on the internet and browse online publications such as Healthcare Purchasing News and other trade magazines to learn the terms so you will be to discuss industry topics. The University of Rochester Medical Center published a great introduction to Sterile Processing that will be worth your time to read. Having a topic or two on hand to discuss with the interview team will launch you to the front of the applicant group. Even if you have achieved Certification through a college course, it will help a lot to have a few current topics to discuss during the interview to show that you stay current on industry trends.

2. Dress appropriately and arrive early: Business-casual is appropriate dress for an SPD interview. Slacks or a conservative skirt or dress, blouse or a button-down or Polo-style shirt are all great choices. Choose clothing that makes you feel comfortable so that you will project a good image to the interviewer. Shorts and tee-shirts are both bad choices. Never wear clothing with writing or large logos, never wear sandals or flip-flops (!), and never wear anything with a camo pattern.

Arrive as early as you wish, but don’t introduce yourself until 10 minutes before the scheduled interview start time. Central Service/Sterile Processing departments are busy places. Managers, Supervisors and Educators are prepared for your interview at the scheduled time.  Introduce yourself early enough to show that you are punctual, but not so early that your interviewers have to accommodate you unexpectedly, or leave you to wait until they are ready. That could put interviewers off and get the meeting off to an uneven start. Also, turn off your phone. Power all the way down and leave it in your purse or pocket.

3. Be enthusiastic and authentic: The difference between bragging and self-confidence is enthusiasm.1 Show enthusiasm and excitement about the opportunity to interview and work for the company but keep in mind that your application is what interested the CS/SPD leadership to consider making you a member of the healthcare facility’s patient care team. The people interviewing you are usually the people you would be working for and with and will see you as a potential co-worker. A false note of confidence or forced enthusiasm will be a turn-off. You are in the interview to promote yourself, your skills and education, and your enthusiasm. Never fake it, just present the best of yourself.

4. Ask for a tour: Just as having researched the role allows you to present yourself as a person with genuine interest in having a Sterile Processing/Central Service career, asking for a tour of the department also shows that your involvement does not end at the interview. This will let them know that you are truly interested in the work environment and want to get a first look at the staff you would be working with. A tour also provides a great opportunity for you to make a deeper impression – so save an insightful question for the tour.

5. Send a thank-you note: One of the most important things you can do to increase your chances of being offered the desired position is to send a thank-you note within 24 to 48 hours after your interview. Interview teams may have many applicants for each job opening and sending a thank-you note will help them to remember your interview and put you in a favored position when making a choice between qualified candidates.

In addition to these five strategies, you may also consider seeking the advice of those who conduct interviews. Giving a good interview is an art that should be performed as flawlessly as possible. That’s a big challenge, which is why preparation is so important to ensuring that you make the best first impression, present yourself well, and leave a good memory in the minds of those who interviewed you. Good luck!

Casey S. Czarnowski, BA, CRCST, CIS, is a Sterile Processing Educator in Fargo, ND. His career spans 11 years at two hospitals as a Sterile Processing Supervisor, Preceptor and Educator.

1. Job Service of North Dakota, JSND-6175 (R.11.12), Successful Interviewing Tip Sheet.

Friday, August 25, 2017



Roughly 15 years ago, the CEO of an East Coast hospital system participated in a panel discussion that featured about a dozen “dot-com” executives exploring how the new online exchanges would revolutionize the healthcare supply chain.

As the lone provider among this august group, and seemingly the voice of reason with all the purchasing power that his fellow panelists coveted for their “dream-big” dot-com operations, he bluntly shared his vision of an internet-fueled supply chain with all the bombast and bluster of a third-world potentate waving his finger in front of global powers dictating how they should treat him.

His authoritarian comment on online product shopping and sourcing drew mixed reactions, and went something like this: “I want to be able to go online, get immediate and full access to information about every product, including its attributes and descriptions for quick comparisons, as well as all prices, regardless of GPO. And I want it for free.”

The audience and panelists reacted with nervous laughter and throat clearing as if trying to determine if this guy was serious or merely suffering from trepidation and naïveté. Obviously, he was poking at the white elephant in the room, alluding to an internet capability that most likely wouldn’t emerge for another 200 years in “Star Trek” time when primitive 20th century conceits, such as brand differentiation, competition and competitiveness, contractual secrets, intellectual property access, profits, security firewalls and the specter of disintermediating just about every player between the manufacturer and buyer, seemed quaint, standard business and trivial.

Fast forward to today when fiscal smelling salts and market competition long ago roused healthcare from its dot-com stupor, thinning the herd of online options as my annual roundup shows in the November Industry Guide. Back then the dot-coms were all about comparing products and product pricing, a concept they largely fumbled until the supply data standards movement scooped up the ball and took the discussion into different directions, gaining scant yardage with each passing year.

Yet now this idea of product and price transparency seems to be entering into a new renaissance.

Credit this development to Amazon Business’ push into healthcare, a maneuver that continues to pique curiosity and interest among those Supply Chain pros already comfortable with Amazon’s format.

And it didn’t take long before Amazon usurpers surfaced with a startup trumpeting service that “lets shoppers browse Amazon and then get exactly what they want today from a local store at the Amazon price.”

Meanwhile, HealthTrust, the third-largest group purchasing organization by annual purchasing volume per HPN’s GPO Headliners list, recently inked a deal with BroadJump for members to use that company’s price benchmarking tool. Remembering the backstory of both companies with roots steeped in tense competition you simply have to chuckle at the circadian rhythms and circuitous nature of strategic and tactical business relationships in healthcare. All told, the deal should generate a win-win for both organizations and usher in the next wave of progressive pricing strategies that have taken root outside of healthcare.

Contract pricing confidentiality clauses may not matter here as we remain far enough removed from implants for sale on some “deals dot-com” site. But that’s one part of a larger legal quandary. As a veteran supply chain executive with extensive experience in hospitals and GPOs told me offline, “…at what point, when someone knows all the deals and prices does it become anti-competitive in the market? High-level data would probably not be a problem, but when you start sharing SKU information, and using it to ‘make’ a market, I believe it is a different story.”

Still, Amazon’s foray into healthcare, and other recent business deals that seem to be a competitive/defensive shield to that expected “encroachment,” may indicate a shift in transactional attitudes and interests.

Maybe Supply Chain pros simply yearn for a different transactional experience from the traditional. And this shift complements the supply data standards movement to the point that an empowered buying capability (get it now, get it fast, get it at the lowest cost you can find yourself or from your or any participating GPO) may puncture protected pricing barriers.

But are Supply Chain pros really ready to work hard, have fun and make history by buying everything they need from A to Z easily?

Rick Dana Barlow

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Ascension increases presence in Illinois

St. Louis-based Ascension Health, the faith-based Catholic health system, solidified its presence in the Chicago metropolitan area and state of Illinois by agreeing to acquire Presence Health and its 12 facilities.

Presence debuted in November 2011 from the merger of Resurrection Health Care and Provena Health. At that time, Resurrection had been a member of Premier Inc. for a decade. Five months later, Presence decided to renew with Premier and join Premier’s Catholic Contracting Group (CCG), which formed in 2005 around committed supply and service contracts involving $2.4 billion in annual purchasing volume at that time.

By joining Ascension, which is fusing Presence with its AMITA Health unit, Presence likely will shift its purchasing volume over time to Ascension’s own group purchasing organization The Resource Group. AMITA Health represents a Chicago-based joint venture between Ascension’s Alexian Brothers Health System and Adventist Midwest Health.

With the deal reported in a variety of media outlets, including Healthcare Purchasing News’ online Daily Update, HPN Senior Editor Rick Dana Barlow asked for general market insights from Munzoor Shaikh, Director, West Monroe’s healthcare practice.

HPN: Will Presence Health as a brand name go away, replaced by AMITA Health branding? Or will there be some kind of co-branding?

SHAIKH: It’s not clear whether Presence Health will take on the AMITA branding yet, though this will likely be answered as the deal closes. More broadly, adding Presence to the AMITA Health joint venture should allow Presence to take advantage of investments that AMITA has already made in back-office operations (e.g., technology), which would allow Presence to improve their balance sheet.

A joint venture versus a stock deal avoids the complex regulatory process, which could drag out for 18+ months. This allows providers and employees to focus on providing care versus wondering about the future of the organization. Presence has been busy with M&A activity and is already dealing with divesting two hospitals in Illinois. There will be a lot of complexity in Presence’s operations over the next several years as they untangle one set of units and integrate into another organization.

What about operational redundancies, in terms of Supply Chain? Or is it too early to talk about centralization and standardization efforts? I presume Presence facilities will be using Ascension’s GPO The Resource Group? What changes can we anticipate?

This is another acquisition in a long spree of acquisitions for Ascension, showing that Ascension is committed to size. However, like most hospitals, efficiency isn’t the top priority. In fact, efficiency can worsen due to size. Narrow integration of Presence Senior Care unit is interesting. This could potentially lead to accumulating dis-synergies. Ascension already faces – like many hospital systems – a proliferation of applications doing the same thing. Such dis-synergies can become a taxing problem for current and future acquisitions. This has an interesting impact on the Chicago and North Indiana hospital markets. Several others could be a target for absorption, especially if they exist in semi-remote markets, align on mission with the Catholic system or struggle to obtain favorable networks via the payers.

How do you see Ascension’s larger AMITA presence competing and faring with other systems in the Chicago metropolitan area, including Advocate, Northwestern, Rush and University of Chicago Medicine?

The acquisition of Presence’s 12 hospitals should be a good fit for Ascension as it seeks to advance the AMITA Health partnership and gain more ground in Illinois. Presence (formerly Resurrection) was the largest Catholic health system in the state, and this acquisition solidifies Ascension as the Catholic health leader in the state. Ascension brings profitability and scale to Presence. Their footprints complement each other with Presence mostly covering Chicago locations (plus downstate) and Ascension/AMITA having a mostly suburban footprint. The expansive footprint for Chicagoans who often work/live in both the city and suburbs could give them a leg up on other systems in the area that focus on either the city or the suburbs, such as University of Chicago Medicine and Northwestern. Ascension’s city/suburb approach helps them compete better with Advocate, which takes a similar approach, but they’ll need to invest in infrastructure and technology upgrades in Presence locations to do so.

How do you see this deal impacting Ascension’s efficiency and day-to-day operations, as well as AMITA’s, and the Illinois hospital market in general?

After this deal, Chicago hospitals should pay heed to being acquired – unless that is their desire – and build unique market presence around quality, patient experience or superior ability to conduct value-based care if they want to maintain their independence. Hospitals’ challenges in today’s world become how to have their mission inform competitive strength in a pragmatic way. For example, if the community is a large constituent of your mission, you could subsidize community efforts with profits from other business lines. However, that is becoming a more and more challenging route. More practically, you need to have mission be combined with innovation, such as working with the community in innovating care delivery models, such as mobile health, and social determinants of health that are empirically driven, etc.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Five ways to talk with your leadership about certification

by Casey S. Czarnowski, BA, CRST, CIS

This is part two of HIGH FIVE, a multi-part series on leading a successful and fulfilling sterile processing career. 

Conscientious hospitals require their SPD technicians to acquire certification at an early point in their career. Certification through an established organization such as the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM), or the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) is important because it demonstrates a level of dedication from the technician, and proves an expertise that goes beyond the hands-on training that technicians receive on the job. Dedication and expertise are traits that patients expect throughout the entire spectrum of their care.

However, the examinations for these certifications are difficult, and impossible for most people to pass without study and practice. Over the last five years, the average success rate on the IAHCSMM CRCST exam is only 54 percent. 1 Study of the materials provided by the certifying body is the deciding factor between success on the exam and having to try again. Study time is essential to a technician’s success in passing the exam, and should be granted at work, especially if it is a condition of employment.

So how can you talk to your department leadership about the need for study time at work? Here are five ways to approach your manager and supervisor about carving out time for study during your shift.

1. Offer examples of why certification is important: The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) understands the importance of certification for sterile processing technicians. Point to their rationale, which states “Advances in surgical and information technology, the emergence of new diseases and microorganisms, and the increased responsibility for all aspects of sterile processing have brought into focus how important it is for sterile processing personnel to be knowledgeable and competent.” 2

The protection of patients and everyone else who works in the hospital provides the focus to this rationale. AAMI’s recommendations are in place for the safety of patients, and this includes proper training and education for all workers involved in their care. In a healthcare facility, every person contributes to the safety of the patient, and everyone whose work touches a patient’s life should have the best training and education available. Sterilization techs often enter their profession with no education or experience, and this is why certification is especially important for them.

2. Preach the gospel of study: The best way to prepare for a certification exam is to study the materials provided by the certifying organization. All of the questions on the exam are in the materials provided by the certifying body. Certifying organizations provide study guides that contain quizzes and practice exams. The questions in the quizzes and practice exams are the same questions on the real exam. No other source can claim to be representative of an actual certification exam. Let Leadership know that the best way to be successful on these tricky (46 percent failure rate) exams is to be familiar with the questions that will actually be on the exam. Taking the practice quizzes and tests provided in the study materials is the only reliable way to do this.

Additionally, wording is important. Questions on the exams are challenging in part due to the word choice of the possible answers. The exam is looking for the best possible answer, and taking practice exams from the organization will familiarize the candidate with the language of the test, increasing their chance for success.

3. Demonstrate the necessity of study during work time: While some facilities still do not require certification, and a few have gone backwards and lifted this crucial requirement, most hospitals today voluntarily require certification. Encouragingly, four states have made certification of sterilization technicians the law, which is great news for patients. If an uncertified technician is required to have a certification within a timeframe, such as 1 year or 18 months, as a condition of employment, opportunity for study during work time should be granted by the organization. Study time at work should be offered to the SPD employee, just as continuing education during work hours is provided for employees in other professions.

4. Offer your supervisor alternative staffing ideas to assure yourself adequate time for exam preparation: In facilities that do not have an educator in the sterile processing department, staff can work with leadership to assure that there is time available to study for the certification exam. Technicians can suggest study time during low census days, trade duties with a fellow employee, or organize a lunchtime study group of candidates in the department. While department supervisors are rightfully concerned with the day’s production and quality of work, they also know that certification is important and probably remember taking their own certification exam. Communication between certification candidates and department leadership will assure successful outcomes for today’s patients and the technician’s future.

If your department is reluctant to hire a dedicated educator, there might be an educator in another department who would be willing to act in that role for the SPD. Most departments of the hospital have nurse educators working with the staff there. A good first choice is to seek out the OR educator and inquire if that person would be willing to work with SPD staff in professional development. Delores O’Connell, LPN, BA, CRCST, CIS, CHL, CSPDT, Clinical Education Specialist for Steris Corporation, notes that most larger hospitals in her Northwestern United States territory have some type of educator, “either a dedicated SPD educator or a shared perioperative educator for OR, SPD and sometimes Endo.” Providing quality education for the sterile processing department benefits the entire hospital, so an ally in education makes sense if the department does not have an educator of its own.

Sterile processing technicians are an important part of the care continuum. The professionals who clean and sterilize the instruments used in procedures should be expected to have the best training and education possible for them to contribute to the best outcome for every patient. With good communication and a well-supported, factual foundation, you can have a constructive conversation with your department leadership and gain the time you need to successfully pass your certification examination.

Casey S. Czarnowski, BA, CRCST, CIS, is a Sterile Processing Educator in Fargo, ND. His career spans 11 years at two hospitals as a Sterile Processing Supervisor, Preceptor and Educator.


2. ST79, Comprehensive guide to steam sterilization and sterility assurance in health care facilities, AAMI, 2013.