Dec 7, 2022 | Sterile Processing

Accountability: If Everyone Is Responsible, Who Is Accountable?

Keeping team members accountable builds trust, strengthens teams, and creates a positive work environment. When we’re not held accountable for our actions, there can be negative outcomes and unintended consequences, including loss of trust, missed deadlines, a negative work environment, and more. It goes without saying that improving accountability among employees and teams increases trust, reassurance, positivity, and relationships.

Below, we’ll discuss why accountability is so important in sterile processing according to Kelly Swails, Director of Clinical Services at Censis Technologies, Inc., and Derek Murray, Senior Client Portfolio Manager for Censis. We’ll outline the effect a lack of accountability can have on the workplace and review how managers can keep employees both responsible and accountable with healthy communication and conflict resolution skills.


The Importance of Accountability in the Workplace

Accountability refers to being responsible for one’s own actions, meaning people are held responsible for both what they do and what they don’t do. In the healthcare industry, accountability is incredibly important because workers’ actions have a direct impact on patient safety and overall health.

When people are accountable for their own actions, it can help to eliminate confusion among employees and minimize distractions and unproductive behavior. This ultimately leads to a more productive department, more satisfied employees, and an increase in patient safety.


What Happens When Employees Aren’t Accountable?

Lack of accountability can negatively affect the workplace, patient health, and employees’ own personal lives.

If employees are not held accountable for their actions, work may not get done. Kelly gave the example of two employees who assumed drains were cleaned when in reality, they were not. If managers fail to hold these employees accountable, it will lead to unproductive behavior, put patients at risk, and create an environment in which people think it’s okay to say “that’s not my job.”

In terms of patient health, it’s crucial that employees in the sterile processing department (SPD) in particular are held accountable for their mistakes. Because SPD staff play a significant role in safeguarding patient health, Kelly called SPD staff the “unsung heroes of hospitals.”

“Without sterile processing,” Kelly said, “there would be no surgeries, no clinic procedures, no endoscopies, no ER visits, no in-patient departments. When you look at it this way, you can truly say that sterile processing is the heart of the hospital.”


Here’s How Managers Can Boost Accountability

Improving workplace accountability starts with leading by example. Derek said managers can hold SPD staff accountable and improve the workplace through healthy communication and strong conflict resolution skills. “Leaders must realize that accountability falls along every area of the reporting chain; it is not just for subordinates,” he said.

Derek went on to describe how leaders who are emotionally accountable and strive to model it in their everyday lives can help to build a culture of accountability in sterile processing departments.

Accountable leaders can then hold team members more accountable by setting team goals, cascading those goals throughout the entire team, and incorporating a system of two-way feedback. The transparency, organization, and responsibility established by these processes encourages more accountability within the workplace.

“Accountability goes both ways! Both leaders and followers are accountable to each other.”

Accountability plays a direct role in people’s personal lives, as well. People who are held accountable and take their responsibilities seriously feel more satisfied and valued in their communities. As Kelly described, accountable employees feel more joy, gratitude, accomplishment, and pride in their personal lives, which can directly impact their performance in their professional lives.

Get more information on how to improve your SPD with Censis’ continuing education courses.