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What We Can Do Now in the Midst of the Pandemic to Better Prepare for the Future

By: Harley Berlant, CRCST, CIS, CHL

April 29, 2020

In the many facilities where I’ve worked and visited over my long career in Sterile Processing, there were only two that had a detailed plan for storage and supplies in the event of a disaster.

Most facilities will meet and discuss tornado or hurricane preparedness, for example, but a solid pandemic plan likely wasn’t on the radar, and the same might be true of other emergencies that seem unlikely. With the current lack of elective surgeries, it may be a good time for SP professionals to fill that void by taking the initiative to be forward thinking, developing emergency plans and working on improving relationships with other areas.

NOW is the time to make plans for updating the following:

  • All emergency carts;
  • Trauma carts; and
  • Policy and procedure manuals.

Why now? Because the products and quantities that are needed are still fresh in our minds. Now is the time to seek out locations for these carts (if not in an entirely separate location, then perhaps in an area with little or no traffic during the routine days).

Updating all trauma/emergency carts should be done with clinicians from the areas SPD interacts with most when these carts are used [e.g., Surgery, Labor and Delivery (L&D), Emergency Department (ED), etc.]. While we’re at it, now is an opportune time to clean all bins in the SPD, Operating Room, L&D and ED – making sure the cleaning is documented and available for the next Joint Commission surveyors.

Reviewing all policies and procedures is wise at this time. Doing so can help determine what’s working well and where any gaps exist that need to be addressed. Employee input can be essential. Leaders should take time to ask their employees which changes they would like to see in the department to improve processes and promote better working relationships with all the areas the SPD serves. Additionally, this may be a good time to meet with some of these other areas to see if they have any suggestions for improving the interdepartmental relationship. Once policies and procedures are reviewed and updated, consider asking the last employee hired to read them to see whether they understand them as they were intended.

If major costs are associated with any of the process planning or implementation, it will be important to budget wisely and try to work with the other departments that will also be affected (which, often, have larger budgets than the SPD). The recommendations may need to be documented and formally presented to the appropriate committees, such as Surgery, Infection Prevention or Administration.

Although any emergency situation can be challenging and disruptive, the better prepared we all become, the better the outcomes will generally be. Valuable lessons are surely being learned now that can help us lay the foundation for future emergency-related responses.