Device Cleaning, Disinfection, and Sterilization

March 6, 2020 | Health System Risk Management


As medical instruments become increasingly more complex, sterile processing departments (SPDs) are challenged with keeping up with ever-changing manufacturer instructions for use (MIFUs), satisfying the high demand for speedy turnaround, and maintaining adequate instrument inventory. In spite of these challenges, sterile processing staff are responsible for not only cleaning and decontaminating instruments, but also for the inspection, assembly, packaging, sterilization, storage, and distribution of instruments, equipment, and supplies—a job that relies on strict adherence to processes that leave no room for error. Due to the level of risk associated with device cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization, this topic remains a persistent issue for healthcare facilities that warrants continued focus and yearly assessment of practices for improvement.

"Patient safety starts in the sterile processing department," says Gail Horvath, MSN, RN, CNOR, CRCST, senior patient safety analyst and consultant, ECRI. Incidents involving improperly reprocessed instruments can potentially result in devastating consequences for patients, damage to organization's and their providers' reputations, citations and fines from regulatory bodies, scrutiny from accrediting agencies, and medical malpractice litigation. Several high-profile news stories involving recent outbreaks linked to problems with reprocessing highlight the importance of following sterilization best practices. In 2018, for example, more than 3,000 people may have been exposed...

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