Archive August 2014 XV, No. 8

7 Steps to Safer Endoscope Reprocessing

Are your techs cleaning your scopes the right way?

Frank Chapman, MBA


dirty scopes FIRST THINGS FIRST Dirty scopes can’t be properly disinfected.

As an accreditation surveyor and CEO of a gastroenterology practice that performs 30,000 endoscopies a year in 4 facilities, I’m keenly aware of what it takes to turn around endoscopes efficiently and effectively. But perhaps more importantly, here’s my take on how to make scope reprocessing safer for the techs doing the dirty work and the patients who trust you with their care.

1. Know scopes inside and out
Best practice in scope reprocessing is to ensure standardized protocols are followed each and every time, right? It’s actually more complicated than that. Independent surgery centers often partner with a single scope manufacturer, which eases the burden on reprocessing technicians. The task becomes more involved in larger centers or hospital systems where techs might handle numerous high-end, complex scopes with unique reprocessing requirements.

It’s extremely important to train techs on every possible scope they might encounter. They must be able to identify the slight differences in various models — the number of ports or channel functions, for example — that demand specialized care.

Educate new employees on proper scope reprocessing and test competencies at least annually — ideally more often than that — or any time a new scope is added to the inventory. Company reps are typically available to run training sessions on the scopes they supply, although they shouldn’t be the sole source of education. Most major manufacturers provide large posters outlining the required reprocessing steps for their instruments. Hang the posters in the reprocessing area where they’ll serve as valuable visual aids and handy references for your techs.

2. Manual cleaning done right
As an accreditation surveyor, I’ve completed the AORN infection control education program. One essential I learned is that proper scope care is a two-step process: Blood and biofilm must be manually removed from scopes before they can be properly reprocessed. Manual cleaning is just as important as the automated steps of reprocessing. It reduces bioburden on the surface of a scope as well as in its working channels.

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