You don’t need to go far to witness a major crisis currently impacting all areas of the nationwide service industry: staff shortages. Whether it is slow (or no) service at your favorite restaurant due to limited wait staff or flights being delayed and canceled due to lack of pilots, crew or air traffic controllers. These issues are presenting themselves everywhere and healthcare is not an exception. Hospitals are facing the same staffing shortage issues with many relying on travelers or PRN staff and still barely getting by.
The SPD Staff Shortage
Sterile Processing Departments have also been hit hard during this staffing crisis. Our SPDs are dealing a double whammy not only in recruiting but also retaining qualified staff. The pool of experienced staff is small and in many areas of the United States, wages are low. The work is both physically and mentally demanding at times and SPD staff are frequently not given proper recognition for the vital role they play in the perioperative loop and patient safety. This can lead to worker dissatisfaction, burnout, and resignations.
So how can SPDs get resourceful in recruiting and keeping qualified staff? Using an instrument tracking system like CensiTrac can help alleviate some of the struggles currently facing all departments.
Training New Staff
To fill vacant positions, many hospitals are hiring individuals to work in SPD that have no previous sterile processing education or experience. On day one, these new techs do not know the difference between a Kelly clamp and a Richardson retractor. Without an instrument tracking system, Google becomes new tech Tom’s best friend as he types in the catalog number – NL1400 and google promptly tells him “V. Mueller® Adson 4-3/4 Inch Length Straight Serrated, Delicate, 1 X 2 Teeth.”
This is a tedious and oftentimes frustrating task when the SPD tech cannot find the instrument online, a tray has 60 instruments in it, most of which the new tech has never seen before, and half of the instruments do not have a discernable catalog number on them. Even your most understanding assembly station neighbor (Sally) will begin to lose patience when Tom asks for the 178th time today “Ok – so what is this?” When Sally curtly responds for the 12th time today “It’s a 6 ½ inch Wheat,” Tom looks anxiously all over the paper count sheet for any mention of a “Wheat” …or a Rye or a Pumpernickel for that matter.
So how does CensiTrac help new tech Tom shine? When Tom grabs that first tray and scans the CensiTrac barcode, that electronic count sheet appears before him. With the placement option he can filter to only see the stringer instruments whittling down his list to forty instruments making the task at hand much less daunting. Then by clicking on each instrument, a catalog picture will appear. Tom can click on that picture, increase the size and move it around to look at specific parts of the instrument. This will help him identify most of the instruments in the set. Once he has conquered the stringer instruments, he can filter to forceps and then retractors. Before anybody can say “Hold my beer,” fireworks will be going off at Tom’s station as he successfully navigates his first (or 1,000th) set.
After some time working in Assembly, leadership decides its time to rotate Tom back to Decontam. People not familiar with sterile processing or CensiTrac might ask “Decontam? That is just ‘washing dishes.’ How could CensiTrac even help back there?” One of the best ways CensiTrac can help techs in Decontam is by attaching instructions to specific sets. Anybody who has ever been in decontam when those vendor trays show up can tell you, those instruments can be challenging to disassemble and ensure proper cleaning. Detailed instructions for the set and individual instruments will be displayed on the monitor when scanning the set to the Decontam Module. This feature helps both new and experienced techs alike. Additional instructions such as “HAND WASH ONLY,” “DO NOT SUBMERGE” or “No ULTRASONIC,” can save Tom, and all techs, from unknowingly damaging power or fragile instruments.
Once Tom moves onto to sterilization, he can rely on several features in CensiTrac to help make his job less stressful. One of the first, is the ability to build a sterilizer load by scanning the items. If the load is full of ten containers and two hundred peel packs, it would take ten or more minutes (and a referral to the carpal tunnel surgeon) to write the load out on the paper load document. Depending on Tom’s penmanship, this load record may or may not be legible for the next person who comes along to review this load record. Compare that to less than a minute of scanning and you have a more accurate, legible, and MUCH more convenient load record. Additionally, if for some reason later, the load needs to be recalled or researched, it is easy to look up the load in CensiTrac using “Load Results” and have all the vital information in a matter of seconds. Compare this to digging through boxes of sterilization records to find the handwritten load information and receipt.
Another great feature in CensiTrac to help make sterilization easier is the ability to add Sterilization instructions to the container types. With different cycle requirements for different instrumentation, having CensiTrac give you a friendly reminder of any special cycles needed for the items that are being sterilized can save you both time and money. Anyone who has ever sterilized breast sizers on a pre-vac cycle knows what I am talking about here.
A great source of dissatisfaction in SPD is having to do work twice because it was not done correctly the first time. Nothing is worse than processing, wrapping and sterilizing a heavy load of loaners only to have the autoclave abort or the biological fail. The sterilizer compliance feature in CensiTrac can help avoid these issues from occurring. When weights are added to container types or to incoming loaners, CensiTrac will tally those weights up while the load is scanned. If the max weight allowance is entered into the reprocessing machine settings, CensiTrac will send an alert if that max weight has been exceeded which will hopefully prevent a wet load or failed biological. While one load might need to be split into two loads, it will save the time of having to re-wrap, re-run and risk not having the sets ready in time for the procedure.
There are several integrated features in CensiTrac to help Tom during his training as well. The best (and frequently unnoticed) feature is the “?” in the upper right-hand corner of every screen in CensiTrac. Each page has a detailed, integrated help guide specific to whatever page is currently being displayed. If you are in Load Indicators – it is everything you could ever want or need to know about Load Indicators. If you are checking in Loaners and get stuck, as long as you can navigate your way to the Loaner Module, the “?” will be your new best friend.
Another amazing feature is the integration of oneSOURCE into CensiTrac. Whether going from the Catalog or directly from the count sheet, CensiTrac offers several ways to get the needed information. You know when Joint Commission shows up in the department, they are going to make a beeline for Tom. One of first questions asked after grabbing some obscure instrument will be “How do you know how to sterilize this instrument?” Tom (who has never seen the instrument before and is beginning to sweat beneath his scrub cap) can respond confidently “I don’t know off-hand however I do know oneSOURCE will have the Instructions for Use (IFU) for that instrument.” Joint Commission’s next likely question will be “How do you get to oneSOURCE?” Tom again can confidently respond “It’s integrated in our instrument tracking system CensiTrac.” Joint Commission will love Tom’s answer and Tom’s confidence will be soaring. Fireworks all around!
Training and Retaining Staff – A Managers Perspective
While these are just a few examples of how CensiTrac can make a new tech’s job easier and more rewarding, there are even more features available for leadership to help train staff to do the best job possible. A great feature in CensiTrac for staff development is the Competency Module. This can be used to onboard new staff and for annual competencies alike. CensiTrac will keep track of those seemingly never-ending competencies while at the same time eliminating the need for binders upon binders of paperwork making the “paper-free dream” come true. Fireworks ensue without the typical fire hazard!
Quality Audits and Feedback
For supervisors and lead techs working out on the floor, CensiTrac can be utilized for a variety of second checks and quality assurance to ensure every tray is done correctly every time. Prior to being containerized, many facilities set trays aside so a second set of eyes can double check that the set is assembled correctly, a count sheet is present, and all integrators are present. This second check can be recorded in the history of tray assembly by adding a barcode scan (“Second Check Pass” or “Second Check Fail” for example) and scanning the tray. Reports can also be generated on this to follow trends of trays that fail their quality audits such as staff involved or reason for failure. This can help to identify patterns and trends so training can be provided.
Quality auditing of completed loads is another great tool for leaders to ensure all sterilization records are complete and to identify training needs. When leadership reviews all completed loads, they can ensure that the Pass/Fail is present, the correct cycle is selected, the biologicals are completely resulted and all necessary paperwork has been scanned into the record. Once all of this is in place, the CensiTrac record is “complete” and it is not necessary to retain additional hard copies. Aside from completing this quality audit to verify all records are complete, this is a great tool to identify staff that may need additional training on load resulting. If Tom is new to sterilization and the lead tech sees that he is consistently forgetting to mark the Pass/Fail, these pages can be printed off and returned to Tom for correction.
The Quality Feedback Module is another fantastic tool that will increase communication between the OR and SPD. Customized Quality Events can be created in Lists such as “Sharps in Tray,” “Incorrect Assembly,” “No POU Treatment.” Staff can then use this module to track shortcomings in the sets going to and coming from the OR. Effective use of this module can be used to identify team training needs, address joint commission identified areas of concern and problem solve recurring problems. This helps both SPD and OR staff work cohesively to achieve their common goal and achieve the grand finale of the firework show– PATIENT SAFETY!
Customized Customer Service
Being a CensiTrac customer provides you with Censis’ personalized service team. Each facility has a Client Manager assigned to them to help with training of new features, problem solving, report building, equipment needs and more. Additionally, at the bottom of every page in CensiTrac is the Service Desk phone number (888-877-3010 Option 1). During normal business hours, the Service Desk answers calls live to help customers with questions. Outside of normal business hours, calls are returned to help troubleshoot problems.
Another great resource for assistance with CensiTrac is the Clinical Services team. This group of clinically trained professionals share a great deal of insight and knowledge that can help your team performs at its best. They perform annual usage assessments for all ServicePlus customers as well as conduct annual week-long training. Each month, they offer a CensiTrac Essentials for Management (CEM) course for both new and experienced managers alike, taking you through the A-Zs of CensiTrac. Additionally, they create blogs, podcasts, and free continuing education articles.
Relying on Censis and your CensiTrac system will ensure your organization sparkles like the brightest fireworks and stays ahead of the future!