By Wayne McPeek
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 clean, 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 should implement preventative maintenance plans on our surgical tools. This will help us 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.