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A Call to Conscience: An Open Letter to the Sterile Processing Industry

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

(We recently received this anonymous letter from one of our listeners. It is a poignant reminder of the reality of far too many Sterile Processing departments and earnest professionals in our industry. And the questions they ask need real answers...)


"I don't know what to do. I am new to sterile processing and am horrified by what I am seeing. 

My mother passed away from an infection she contracted while having surgery. I entered sterile processing determined to do my best to ensure that another family did not lose their mom in this way.

I work at a hospital that averages about 40 surgeries a day - about 15 of which are total joint replacements. 

I was surprised to learn that there are no environmental controls - temperature fluctuations and humidity changes are not monitored. Garbage is emptied daily but floors are not mopped. Cleaning in decontamination consists of wiping up blood etc with a dry cloth. 

A rep was in recently. He asked for 4 instruments to use in his demonstration. 3 of the 4 he said should be removed from service immediately. More than one was not sharp enough to do what it was meant for. We have no way of testing sharpness. 

I came into this field thinking my hard work could make a difference. I am now terrified that my best will not be enough. 

In reading and watching videos I believed that sterile processing was regulated and rather regimented - all techs cleaning and inspecting in similar ways to ensure sterility. What I have found couldn't be further from the truth. 

Is this the truth of the industry - slick videos and quasi-professional organizations shielding the public from the horrible truth that lurks out of sight? Brightly lit, high tech healthcare hiding a filthy secret in the basement? 

I didn't mean to ramble on. My question is: am I seeing what sterile processing really is? Glossy books and internet posts are just window dressing to a dirty job? Is 'Sterile processing professional' just wishful thinking?"

Anonymous Email Submission, June 2019


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