White Paper

White Paper: An Infection Preventionist's Survival Guide To Understanding Sterile Processing

Source: STERIS Corporation

The sterile processing department (SPD) is the central hub of the hospital, with the responsibility for performing decontamination, preparation, packaging and sterilization of all reusable medical devices. The activities performed in this area can range from the simple to the extremely complex, a fact that is often misunderstood and is sometimes unnoticed by those working outside this department.

Because they carry significant responsibility for a hospital's infection prevention program and for positive patient outcomes, infection preventionists should be highly knowledgeable about the activities of their hospital's sterile processing departments. The ideal SPD would be a centralized sterile processing area where all reusable instruments, equipment and supply items are processed in one location, under the direction of a knowledgeable leader. In reality, this is not always the case due to a lack of space or funding, or more commonly, a lack of understanding of the importance of this function. In this environment, infection preventionists can act as change agents, mentors and collaborative partners for process improvement.

This study guide is designed for infection preventionists who are ultimately responsible for overseeing the activities of sterile processing departments in their facilities. It is a descriptive stepby- step walk through a typical sterile processing loop (focusing on steam sterilization), with an explanation of the inner workings of each area and includes specific checkpoints that should be incorporated into routine department surveys.