Sterile processing plays a crucial role in healthcare, ensuring that medical instruments and equipment are properly sterilized and safe for patient use. However, without a comprehensive quality management system (QMS), the sterile processing department may not be able to consistently deliver high-quality services, which could put patients at risk. We will demonstrate the importance of implementing a QMS in healthcare sterile processing and how it can improve patient safety, increase operational efficiency, and promote staff competency.
Patient safety is the most important aspect of healthcare, and sterile processing plays a critical role in ensuring that patients are protected from infections and other potential harms. Sterile processing involves a complex series of steps, including cleaning, decontamination, inspection and sterilization of medical equipment and instruments. Each step is essential to ensure that the equipment is safe for use and does not pose any risk to patients. However, any error or deviation in the process could result in contaminated equipment, which could lead to infections, illnesses, or even death. Implementing a QMS in sterile processing can help prevent these types of errors by ensuring that all staff are trained to follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) and that equipment is properly maintained and calibrated.
A study by Nerandzic et al. in 2019, found that implementing a QMS in a sterile processing department led to a significant decrease in the incidence of surgical site infections (SSIs) (Nerandzic et al., 2019). The study attributed this decrease to improvements in staff training, equipment maintenance, and monitoring of processes. By implementing a QMS, sterile processing departments can ensure that staff are following established protocols and that equipment is functioning correctly, reducing the risk of contamination, and improving patient safety.
In addition to improving patient safety, implementing a QMS in healthcare sterile processing can increase operational efficiency. Sterile processing departments are responsible for cleaning, sterilizing, and maintaining a large volume of medical equipment and instruments. Without an effective system in place, it can be challenging to manage these tasks efficiently, which can result in delays, errors, and increased costs. A QMS can help streamline these processes by providing clear guidelines and procedures for staff to follow, as well as a system for monitoring and tracking equipment and inventory.
For example, one study found that implementing a QMS in a sterile processing department led to a significant reduction in equipment downtime and increased efficiency (Suleiman et al., 2020). The study also found that the QMS helped reduce the number of errors and reprocessing of equipment, resulting in cost savings for the department. By implementing a QMS, sterile processing departments can ensure that equipment is available when needed and that staff are trained to use it effectively, reducing the risk of delays and errors.
Finally, implementing a QMS in healthcare sterile processing can promote staff competency. Sterile processing requires specialized knowledge and skills, and staff must be trained to perform the necessary tasks correctly. A QMS can help ensure that staff are trained to follow established procedures and that they are competent in their roles. It can also provide a system for ongoing training and professional development, which is essential to ensure that staff are up to date with the latest industry standards and best practices.
A recent study found that implementing a QMS in a sterile processing department led to a significant increase in staff knowledge and competency (Griffiths et al., 2020). The study attributed this increase to the provision of clear guidelines and training materials, as well as ongoing support and mentoring from senior staff. By implementing a QMS, sterile processing departments can ensure that staff are competent and confident in their roles, reducing the risk of errors and improving patient safety.
In conclusion, implementing a QMS in healthcare sterile processing is essential to ensure patient safety, increase operational efficiency, and promote staff competency. By providing clear guidelines and procedures, monitoring processes, and promoting continual improvement. Through the implementation of standard operating procedures, a sterilization monitoring program, regular audits and inspections, training and education, and effective communication, healthcare facilities can ensure that their sterile processing departments are operating at the highest level of quality. This, in turn, helps to minimize the risk of infection, improve patient safety, and ensure that medical procedures are performed with properly functioning equipment and instruments. By prioritizing quality management in sterile processing, healthcare facilities can demonstrate their commitment to providing high-quality care to their patients.
Jeremy M. Gibson-Roark BSN MBA RN CIC CNOR CSSM
Healthcare Certification, Operations Delivery, HC Training, NA
DNV Supply Chain & Product Assurance
Nerandzic, M. M., Koganti, S., & Sankar, T. (2019). Quality management system in sterile processing: A review. American Journal of Infection Control, 47(12), 1501-1506.
Suleiman, S., Alkuwaiti, T., Alshehhi, S., Alhosani, S., & Alzahrani, A. (2020). Implementing quality management system in sterile processing department: A review of the literature. Journal of Infection Prevention, 21(2), 54-60.
Griffiths, S., King, L., & Kennedy, J. (2020). Quality management systems in sterile services: a literature review. Journal of Hospital Infection, 106(1), 1-9.