Author: Hank Balch | Beyond Clean
- Understand the recruiting challenges sterile processing departments are facing today.
- Learn how real department data can improve a sterile processing resume.
- Identify the value of recruiting on key performance indicators based on real data.
How great of a Sterile Processing technician are you? How do you even answer a question like that? Some may offer up their years of experience. Others may pull out copies of their credentials and certifications. But do these things really prove “greatness” or excellence, or is there still something missing? Surgeons can point to their on-time case starts, readmission rates, patients satisfaction surveys and other key performance indicators (KPIs) to show they are great at their jobs, but what kind of data can individual Sterile Processing professionals use to make the same case for themselves and their careers?
Believe it or not, your department’s instrument tracking system can be a gold mine for building a stellar resume filled with tangible evidence that you are the crème of the crop when it comes to instrument reprocessing prowess. This article will explain the current state of industry recruiting & retaining of Sterile Processing professionals and outline a few of the important metrics that you could be pulling today to help you build your career for a brighter tomorrow.
The Recruiting Challenges We’re Facing Today
As 2021 draws to a close with 2022 fast on its heels, the healthcare staffing crisis is weighing heavy on many departments, including Sterile Processing. Current research says that hospitals are experiencing an average 9.9% vacancy rate for RNs, which we can assume is a similar rate for Sterile Processing professionals as well, if not even higher. Unlike with nurses, there is a low barrier to entry for Sterile Processing technicians (since there is no required associates or bachelors program to enter the workforce). The impact of this low barrier to entry also cuts the other direction, meaning there is a lower barrier to exit for technicians who did not have to spend years in an RN training program, along with thousands of dollars of tuition costs. This is why we hear stories of Amazon warehouses and home improvement stores being able to compete with the same recruiting pool available to Sterile Processing leaders, since their starting rates are often higher than what hospitals are willing to pay for entry level reprocessing technicians.
Even prior to the current recruiting challenges mentioned above, healthcare recruiters and department managers have struggled to reliably differentiate between the value of candidates who are applying to their open positions. Are all technicians with five (5) years of experience created equal? Does a certification mean that I can rely on the quality & productivity of this candidate? The only mechanisms available under a traditional recruiting model have been to review credentials, experience, and references before moving the candidate through an interview process. Little tangible data was available to compare one candidate to another besides the previously mentioned experience and credentials.
The Resume Value of Real Department Data
It’s not uncommon to see certain data points show up on Sterile Processing manager & director resumes such as number of hospital beds supported, size of department budget, total headcount of staff managed, etc. These kinds of numbers can go a long way in demonstrating the true scope of leadership a department leader has handled. However, it is much rarer to see frontline staff tap into the tremendously valuable and telling data available from their department’s instrument tracking system. As a manager & director who has interviewed hundreds of Sterile Processing professionals & travelers in my career, here are just a few of the key performance indicators I would have loved to see show up on a resume that crossed my desk:
- Total instruments assembled by candidate per year
- This would give insight into assembly productivity.
- Total trays assembled by candidate per year
- This would give insight into assembly productivity.
- Total trays decontaminated by candidate per year
- This would give insight into decontamination productivity.
- Total loads sterilized by candidate per year
- This would give insight into sterilization productivity.
- Total case carts picked/pulled by candidate per year.
- This would give insight into case picking productivity.
- Total quality events per year
- This would give insight into productivity vs. quality.
- Total productivity percentage (of staff member) per year
- This would give insight into the comparative productivity of the candidate. In other words, how much of the department’s total productivity was on their shoulders.
- Total number of unique tray types
- This would give insight into the complexity of inventory that the candidate was responsible for reprocessing.
These stats are the kinds of information you would see on a Sterile Processing professional’s baseball card – if such a thing existed. They are the measurable metrics which tell the real story of a technician’s contribution to the bigger department mission of supplying safe, surgical instruments that are sterile & functional, each and every time. In lieu of industry baseball cards, the next best home for this kind of data is on your resume.
Reimagining a World Where Instrument Data is Everywhere
What if this kind of data-rich resume experience were actually the status quo? What if recruiters were calling you because they saw you decontaminated 20% of your entire department’s trays on an average year? Under this kind of individual data transparency, the entire model of Sterile Processing recruiting & promotion for both permanent and temporary traveling technicians would experience a dramatic shift. Recruiting on experience & credentials alone – to return to our baseball analogy – would be like hiring a major league pitcher without knowing how many miles per hour he could throw a fastball. On the other hand, Sterile Processing technicians who could clearly demonstrate their value to the department they were applying to with tangible key performance indicators listed in their resume would be able to leverage much better offers than they may have gotten under the traditional model. The impact on the temporary traveling technician might be even more dramatic. With hospitals already willing to pay premium rates for critical staffing support, if a traveler were able to show they were twice as productive in the assembly area (for instance) as their traveling peers, all the negotiating power falls right into their lap. Then it no longer is a game of averages and standard rates, and employers can take a much needed step toward finally paying for productivity & quality, rather than experience alone.
The best part of this discussion is that you do not have to wait for any big industry shift to happen to start experiencing the tremendous value of instrument tracking data. All you need to do is work with your department leader to pull your historical production & quality numbers and add them to your next resume submission. From there, the conversation is in your hands to explain what these numbers mean and why the recruiter should be in awe of how amazing you are as a high-producing, quality-focused Sterile Processing expert. You might be the first resume they see where these stats show up, but you definitely will not be the last…