There is no IFU for Establishing a ‘Patient-First’ Culture in Reprocessing Departments

There are instructions for use (IFU)s for just about everything in sterile processing departments (SPD), and for good reason. SPD is responsible for cleaning some of the most vital and potentially risky equipment in the hospital: Surgical instruments. One IFU you won’t find? How to create a patient-first culture.


ANSI/AAMI ST79: 2017 requires departments to follow IFUs to ensure effective decontamination and sterilization. Those IFUs are geared toward patient safety by reducing the incidence and possibility of infection. Infection prevention is at the core of everything we do. Yet we often miss the mark when it comes to prioritizing the patient as we perform our reprocessing.


And there is no IFU provided to leadership on how to create a patient-first culture in their departments.


There are no instructions that tell us how to instill a group mindset of patient-first focus, or how to ensure the end user, as it were, sits at the top of every technician’s mind in the department. That their efforts aren’t just to reprocess, but to improve, and even save, someone’s life.


When there is no roadmap to follow, departments must put their own plan into place.


Let’s talk about culture


patient first cultureCreating a patient-first culture which incorporates employee psychological safety is important for teams to achieve success.


Two questions need to be addressed during all reprocessing tasks:


  1. Does the team have a patient-first focus? Or are they simply following a protocol?
  2. If they feel something is not meeting IFUs for patient safety, do they feel comfortable speaking up?


It’s important to establish a patient-first culture to identify where infection prevention improvements are needed, and also to encourage team members to be at ease with bringing to attention to something that needs a change.


One example could be syringe flushing. Do team members recognize that syringes create inconsistent flushing pressure? Are they encouraged to always prioritize patient safety to the point where they are comfortable suggesting a different way of doing things? Can they trust that their suggestions will be received in a positive manner?


Creating a patient-first mentality along with providing team members with the trust and support to identify issues can elevate your department, as well as bolster confidence for team members.


Where are the IFU police?


There are no IFU police looking over every shoulder in the department. And sometimes it seems as if none are needed. When patient safety numbers are doing well, it can be all too easy to believe there is no problem.


It’s easy to dismiss the idea of potential IFU issues when there are no negative patient outcomes. But believing there is no problem should be a red flag to leadership and educators. A false sense of security can prevail when a problem isn’t evident. It can spread throughout the team. And that is anathema to sterile processing department efforts to prioritize patient safety as a critical, daily effort.


Implementing a patient-first mentality combined with encouraging trust and autonomy within your team will create a crew that will become their own IFU monitors. They will become more vigilant and work together to identify solutions before a potential issue becomes a real problem.


We’re all in this together


There is no manual to tell us how to instill a patient-first culture in our SPD. But we can make our own IFU by outlining clear ways to communicate with our teams, encouraging teammate participation for improved ways to meet best practices, and by wrapping it into a core culture.


These efforts will strengthen team bonds, elevate best practices, and improve SPD outcomes. After all, those patients are counting on us.

Have a problem you want help solving? We’d be happy to help!


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