Mirielle Thompson and Chirf of SPS (Manhattan campus) Angela Morgan, RN, Army Veteran
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Did you know that over 400 stainless steel surgical instruments must be sanitized following a single cardiac operation? Orthopedic surgeries and neurosurgeries also may utilize hundreds of instruments then turned over to the Sterilization Processing Service (SPS) to clean in a complex, multi-stage process to battle infection, the stealthy enemy.
Chief of SPS (Manhattan campus) Angela Morgan, RN, an operating room nurse and Army Veteran, knows what could be a life and death risk of infection every time a patient’s skin is open or an instrument is introduced into the body for a procedure. Staff refer to their efforts as reprocessing reusable medical equipment (RME.
Basically, what’s involved is manual washing of equipment, then chemical cleansing in an “enzymatic disinfecting solution.” Instruments are then assembled and packaged and made ready for sterilization in an autoclave that operates with steam at a temperature of 270 degrees. Certain specialized heat sensitive instruments like some scopes may be processed in an autoclave using ethylene oxide gas. In 2011, the instruments for 4,400 cases in Manhattan alone.
“Just getting the sterilization process right is not enough, we have to keep getting better at this process and so we drill and train,” says Morgan. Assistant Chief Melvin Bethea, a Vietnam Veteran, is very serious about work insisting on constant vigilance and discipline to ensure patient safety in the fight against infection- is clear.
Because so many small objects are involved and every step of the cleaning process is important, staff need to take their responsibilities truly to heart. Supervisor Natasha Yates, an Army Veteran, gained expertise while deployed around the world at military medical facilities. She handles scissors, scalpels, probes and other equipment methodically, aware of the importance of every detail in the sterilization process. Marielle Thompson has become specialized in overseeing volunteer workers and keeping them in line with the strict regimentation of this dedicated service.
"We really depend on a highly trained conscientious staff to ensure that sterilization of instruments is done to the highest standard," noted said Deborah Watkins, Chief of SPS at VA's Brooklyn campus. "We are fortunate to have such a committed team working here. In fact, six of the eight staff members are VA and International Association of Healthcare Central Material Management (IAHCSMM ) certified. There has been increased focus on SPS service nationally since 2009, and we feel proud to know that we have been consistently measuring up."
Committed to ongoing enhancement of the SPS service, VA New York Harbor Healthcare System’s SPS service in Brooklyn and Manhattan are joining VISN3-wide competition called “ISO 9001” focused on making services even better – more streamlined and precisely documented. Following a kick-off ceremony in late October, SPS services will engage in a professional competition for excellence involving all staff in competitive assignments or “games” over a 15 week period. JJ Peters, VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, VA Hudson Valley, VA Northport and VA New Jersey will be participating. The Medical Center scoring the most wins will receive an award for their Medical Center.