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Sterile Processing & COVID-19

COVID-19 has been at the forefront of the media and will likely remain there for the foreseeable future. More evidence of how long SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) can survive on surfaces, such as medical devices and equipment, is being compiled. The CDC states: “...coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19.” These recommendations sound a lot like what every sterile processing professional does, every single day. Sterile processing plays a critical role in the patient care cycle, especially when reprocessing instruments used in emergency procedures for high-risk patients. Many sterile processing departments are accustomed to working with scarce resources and little support, but they will likely be asked to continue to do more with less in the coming weeks, and months. COVID-19 isn’t changing the way that sterile processing professionals decontaminate surgical instrumentation and other medical devices, standard precautions dictate that all contaminated devices be treated as though they are contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms. What COVID-19 is changing is the healthcare environment and availability of resources. Continuing to follow instrument reprocessing standards and best practices such as PPE requirements and adhering to validated cleaning instructions for medical devices are essential to protect patients and sterile processing professionals alike. These are uncertain times and new information is released every day. We must be flexible and creative on how we approach COVID-19 in sterile processing, but what’s most important is that we continue to do what’s right; every single instrument, every single time.


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