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Archive Infection Control 2018

Get Reprocessing Right With Every Tool, Every Time

Q&A with Weston "Hank" Balch, CRCST, CER, CIS, CHL, instrument care expert and sterile processing podcaster.

Weston "Hank" Balch

Weston "Hank" Balch, CRCST, CIS, CHL


Hank Balch

Why did you launch the Beyond Clean podcast?

There's a tremendous need for networking and continuing education among sterile processing professionals across the globe. Podcasting lets us expand that reach by engaging listeners during their morning commutes or even while they're working. What better way to improve how they care for instruments than to have experts in their ear telling them how to do it well?

What types of topics do you discuss on the podcast?

We've talked about ways the sterile processing department can collaborate with infection preventionists to what the future of instrument reprocessing will look like. Augmented reality (AR), for example, could have a big impact on the daily workload of technicians. They could wear AR glasses, which would scan a QR code on an instrument and display useful information in their field of view, such as instrument type, which tray it belongs to, and how to inspect, clean and sterilize it. AR would give techs access to instrument instructions for use at the point of need.

What's the biggest misconception about sterile processing techs?

The belief that they have a low impact on a facility's success, low importance and low skill because they make a small fraction of what surgeons and nurses earn. It's difficult for others to fully appreciate the benefits that sterile processing brings to a facility's bottom line, even though reprocessing every instrument properly every time avoids surgical site infections and case delays. A job done well in central sterile provides significant value, while a job done poorly results in significant trouble.

What can surgical leaders do to help sterile processing techs feel valued?

Encourage them to pursue industry certification and, if possible, fund their continuing education. Those are things high-quality facilities do for employees in related positions, but similar opportunities don't often reach the sterile processing department. Reprocessing techs are often forgotten about in the basement. They're physically removed from the rest of the perioperative team, eating in different places and having their own meetings. That only widens the divide with the OR and the misunderstanding between the teams. To bridge this gap, sterile processing staff must be included in educational opportunities, daily meetings and the general everyday life of the surgical department. Both areas need to realize that they share a common goal: safe surgical care. OSM

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