Establishing & Maintaining a Great Culture in Sterile Processing

As many have learned over the last few years and amid the Great Resignation, attracting and holding onto phenomenal talent has become more important, and difficult, than ever.

Some variables, such as compensation and benefits, can be out of a manager’s control, but there is a high-impact variable that SPD Managers can control without approval from their HR departments: Culture.

So, what steps can be taken to start building a great culture in your sterile processing department?


Demonstrate a willingness to help

Team members in sterile processing are in a perpetual state of multitasking with the accuracy and focus necessary to keep patients safe. Couple that level of activity and laser-focus with being short staffed, and you’re likely to end up with a frustrated team struggling to get everything done.

Jumping in to help your team when things get hectic demonstrates that you’ve got their back and that you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do the same things they’re asked to do.



Recognize high performance

Sterile processing is a demanding job that requires not only a great deal of knowledge, but the ability to utilize that knowledge on the fly in a fast-paced environment. Often, the only feedback a technician might get is the disapproval from the OR when items are missing or lost, leading to a belief their work isn’t appreciated, or fully understood.

Taking the time to privately, or publicly, recognize technicians when they do a great job lets them know their effort is seen. It also helps to understand how each technician prefers to receive that feedback, such as in one-to-one or group meetings.


Make workstations work for techs

The work completed in sterile processing is taxing, to say the least. Whether it’s being hunched over a sink, stretching to reach materials, or having to make another trip across the department to grab something, little inconveniences can lead to irritations about coming to work, and can lower morale.

Seeking the input of your team and incorporating them into the decision-making process can help illuminate problems you weren’t aware of, as well as help get buy-in on new changes being made. Technicians can help identify ways to improve processes and configurations in your department to not only make their jobs easier, but also boost the productivity of your department.


Spend time together as a team

A lot of organizations and departments refer to themselves as a family, or a team, but rarely is it as true as it is for sterile processing departments. SPD shows up each day with an understanding that the work will be difficult and underappreciated. It’s important that everyone is on the same page, have each other’s backs, and will do everything they can to ensure patient safety. It’s a stressful job that requires passion and teamwork.

It’s important for sterile processing departments to spend time outside of the high-pressure environment they operate in together. This allows them to get to know each other better, discuss the stresses and achievements that only their coworkers will truly understand, and ultimately improve communication and team performance.


Focus on leadership styles that emphasize growth and understanding

Leadership can take a great team and make it terrible, or it can turn an average team into all-stars. Developing and fostering effective leadership styles for your department can make all the difference; your leadership style is the beating heart of the culture you want to create for your department.

Leadership styles that help technicians grow through coaching and learning from mistakes, allow flexibility where possible, and demonstrate an understanding of individual problems and considerations, show your department that you’re not just there to manage them, but to support them as people.


More Than Staffing & Retention

A great culture can transform a department, and the benefits go well beyond staffing and retention. It makes a workplace more enjoyable to be a part of and generates enthusiasm among staff, while also facilitating growth and development.

Make your department a place that a newcomer would be impressed by – a place people want to be a part of. Investing time in your workplace culture is an investment in your people.


We thank our Voice of the Customer panel for their time and insights. If you missed our previous blog post discussing takeaways from our March Voice of the Customer meeting about staffing & retention, check it out!

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