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ASC sterilization techniques & compliance: Q&A with Lakes Surgery Center's Jennifer Butterfield

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Equipment sterilization is a key aspect of lowering the infection rate and improving outcomes at an ambulatory surgery center. At Becker's ASC 21st Annual Meeting: The Business and Operations of ASCs, a panel of administrators will discuss best practices in sterilization techniques and compliance at a surgery center.

Jennifer Butterfield, MBA, RN, CNOR, administrator, Lakes Surgery Center in West Bloomfield, Mich., one of the panelists, discusses some of the most overlooked aspects of ASC sterilization as well as some ways to ensure sterilization compliance. The panel also includes Janie Kinsey, RN, CASC, administrator, St. Luke's South Surgery Center in Overland Park, Kan.

Question: What will be the focus of the session and what are you hoping attendees will get out of it?

Jennifer Butterfield: Proper sterilization is the foundation of any ASC. In other words, your facility is only as good as your sterilization process. It doesn't matter how talented your surgeons, how great the aseptic techniques of your scrub techs or how diligent your circulating RNs are at catching breaks in sterility if you failed to properly sterilize the instrumentation in the first place.

There are a lot of stressors in running an ASC; we all have to do more with less. However, the one place you should never compromise is on the integrity of the people within your central processing department. Understand that your sterile processing techs are at the heart of the quality and safety of your organization.

Q: What are some of the most overlooked sterilization techniques at ASCs?

JB: I can list a lot of overlooked techniques from failing to pre-clean to not following manufactured recommendations, but what it really boils down to is having the right person leading the sterilization department. The person you need at the helm is a person with a surgical conscious that feels each tray he or she sterilizes will be the tray his or her mother would receive.

The right person won't take short cuts, won't compromise due to time constraints or physician pressures and won't allow others to deviate from the plan. This person also understands how to manage their time, how to work with scheduling to manipulate case types to their advantage. They can lead the rest of the staff in adhering to the same high standards and are willing to call out anyone who takes short cuts or deviate from the process.

Q: What are some ways in which ASCs can improve compliance with sterilization techniques?

JB: Educate, educate, educate. First, I highly recommend that the lead of your sterilization department hold the credential of Certified Registered Central Service Technician through an organization such as the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Material Management. Keeping this credential requires technicians to complete continuing education credits similar to CNOR and other certified designations.

Second, the knowledge and expertise of your lead sterilization technician cannot exist in a bubble and needs to get passed on to the CSTs and RNs working in the department. At least annually, I recommend the lead sterilization technician conduct competency/in-service to the operating room staff on proper sterilization techniques including how to clean, process, wrap and autoclave — for main and immediate use.

Finally, ensure your OR team is proactive in working with scheduling to allow for the appropriate amount of time to sterilize instruments or have on-hand sufficient instrument inventory to avoid excessive immediate use steam sterilization.

More articles on ASCs:

Payers driving surgeries to the outpatient setting in North Carolina
Employee engagement is highest in the South
Data analytics in ASCs: The future is here

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