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Three Wonderful Ways Not to Waste Your Friday: A Sterile Processing Week'enders Handbook

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Few things stressed me out more as a new Sterile Processing leader than walking out of the department on a Friday evening. 

Unlike your friendly neighborhood office building, most of us don't have the luxury of closing the SPD door at 5pm on Friday. Instead, we take all the department leaders away -- not only from the SPD, but often from the OR, as well as the rest of the hospital -- and keep the factory churning. A sprinkling of supervisors, scant managers, and nary a director to be found. The only folks who are left are the few, the proud, ... the weekend warriors

Whether you are one of those brave, indispensable souls who man the ship on the weekends, or one of the anxious captains who need a little peace of mind before you leave the helm for 48-hours of autopilot, here are three wonderful ways not to waste your Friday that can help ensure your weekends go off without a hitch.

1) Summon Your Inner Boy Scout: Be Prepared

While you don't have to wait until Friday to start prepping for the weekend, if you haven't done it already -- now's the time! If you're the department leader, take a moment today to review the weekend schedule. Does everyone on the schedule know how to solve every problem that may arise over the next two days? Since the answer to that is most likely "No," do you have phone numbers posted for those off-the-wall questions that only seem to come up at 2am on Sunday mornings? Don't wait until you get one of those Monday morning "Safety Event" emails summoning you to the Quality/Risk department before you get a backup plan in place for one-off surprises. If you're a tech scheduled for the weekend, find out who is working with you and make sure they don't have any competency related questions that should be answered prior to being alone on the processing floor. You've got a department full of leaders on Friday. Make it count.

2) Supplies Don't Grow on Trees

I remember one of the first weekends I ever worked in SPD and the feeling I had when we ran out of water-proof boot covers in decontam. I knew where the backup stock was, and wouldn't you know, it was completely empty. Being one of those eager techs who didn't want to bother my supervisor on the weekend, I forced myself to pillage the OR stash -- hopefully clandestinely enough so as not to arouse suspicion from our nursing neighbors (this was before I understood the basics of separate supply budgets).* [Let the record show I gave them back a few boot covers after our next delivery, just because I felt bad about it.]* But I tell this story because it taught me a valuable weekend tech lesson -- check your supplies on Friday before the folks leave who can help you order what you need for the weekend. Brushes, PPE, indicators, biologicals, instrument wrap. We need a lot of 'things' to do our job, so it's worth a few extra minutes on Friday to ensure every 'thing' is present and accounted for.

3) It's Only a Day (or Three) Away

Although weekend prep is primarily about having successful weekends, successful weekends also result in smooth Monday mornings (and we all love smooth Monday mornings!). Even though it's Friday, Monday is already (logistically speaking) within striking distance. Do you have loaners that are needed for a Monday case that you can go ahead and prioritize tonight? Will your second shift be able to pull case carts for Monday's cases before they leave on Friday? The more that can be planned or completed on a Friday for your Monday surgical cases, the easier it will be for your weekend team to focus on the immediate needs of their Saturday/Sunday case load. Try to coordinate staffing so that you get a good 'productivity push' into the weekend and don't leave large numbers of unprocessed trays that may drown your weekend skeleton crew. Any inventory that is needed for weekend and Monday cases should be flagged as priority turnover and communicated to the team before leaders hand off the proverbial torch.


No matter how you spend your Fridays in SPD, do yourself and your team a favor and give them the tools they need to dominate the next two days. Your weekend warriors will appreciate all the help they can get, and you'll sleep much more soundly at night knowing the department is in well supplied, competent hands. 


Hank Balch

Beyond Clean Ⓒ April  2019


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