Sterile Processing Staffing & Retention in 2022: Insights from Central Sterile Managers

At Pure Processing, our Passion for Processing runs deeps (it’s one of our Core Values, after all). It was also one of the catalysts for the creation of our Voice of the Customer (VOC) committee in May of 2020; who better to help shape the improvements and future of sterile processing than its own managers and leaders?

We were fortunate enough to convene many of our VOC members in March of this year to discuss a topic that organizations throughout the country are grappling with in 2022: Staffing & retention.

Each VOC member shared their experiences with their staffing challenges, but also some of the ways that they addressed them. From city center hospitals to rural medical centers, here are some of the ways that our committee addressed the staffing and retention challenges they faced:

 

Take note of errors, but don’t publicly shame.

Sterile processing departments need to be able to catch and record errors in order to improve, but calling out technicians publicly and shaming them in front of their peers can lead to burnout and high turnover.

 

Provide a professional ladder for members of SPD to climb.

Everyone wants to be able to grow in their profession, and sterile processing technicians are no different. Having a clear and attainable ladder for team members to climb allows them to continue growing right where they are.

 

Put a buffer between the rest of the hospital and SPD technicians.

Sterile processing departments can be chaotic and tense all on their own; technicians don’t need staff from other areas of the hospital coming into their place of the work to give them a piece of their mind. Ensuring that input and feedback from other departments flows through management channels allows everyone to be heard without causing undue stress.

 

People working in SPD don’t want to find a new job in fast food, even it pays more.

SPD professionals are passionate about what they do and understand the impact they have on patient safety. Despite the wage growth in industries like fast food and retail, members of our VOC panel indicated that people working in SPD don’t necessarily want to jump ship strictly based on pay, because they take pride in their work. That being said…

 

Make sure compensation is competitive for your region.

Compensation is an ongoing point of contention in many industries, and sterile processing is no exception. Making sure that the compensation offered by your department is comparable to other SPD positions in your immediate geographic region helps to guarantee an apples-to-apples comparison when competing for and retaining talent.

 

Create a work environment that people don’t want to leave.

SPD Managers can improve retention rates by striving to create a work environment that technicians want to continue working in. Demonstrating a willingness to jump in and help, making workstations more functional, and recognizing high performance were some of the examples given to create a desirable department to work in.

 

Include your team.

Members of your team can provide insight on how to improve the department. Getting them involved in projects from the start can help avoid pitfalls in terms of practicality and implementation. Asking for their input and incorporating them in the decision-making process is a great way to give team members a voice and get them invested in the department.

 

Keep morale high.

From showing appreciation, setting aside time to spend together as a team, to focusing on leadership styles that emphasize growth and understanding, many of our VOC members commented on the importance of maintaining high morale and the approaches they take to doing so.

 

Let HR know what to look for.

Some sterile processing departments aren’t as involved as they would like to be in the recruiting and hiring process. Letting HR departments know what kind of previous experience is valuable is a critical step to identifying great talent for your department.

 

Partner up with local schools.

While not all of our VOC participants had central sterile programs at their local colleges or institutions, all of those that did had a relationship with them and were actively engaging them. Even attending high school job fairs or speaking engagements made an impact. Letting students know about the nature of SPD and generating awareness can help bring in more applicants and create interest in the field.

 

A common theme: Culture

We really enjoyed our conversation with our VOC participants (and we really appreciate you taking the time – thank you!).

The conversation spanned a wide range of different ideas and thoughts on how to best retain and attract talent, but one theme seemed to weave throughout: creating a great culture.

Interested in what we learned about creating a great culture in sterile processing? Keep an eye out for our upcoming blog post: Establishing and Maintaining a Great Culture in Sterile Processing.