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Sterile Services and Sterile services Technicians

May 14,2022

Decontamination And Sterile Services

What is a sterile services department in a hospital?

Patients who undergo treatment that uses medical equipment and instruments are usually afraid of the safety of these devices. But, these days, hospitals' sterile services departments  decontaminate medical instruments with maximum care.

Nowadays, sterile services departments in hospitals  are introducing new instruments and devices for sterilisation and decontamination. As a result, it is really happy news for patients who can be certain that every piece of equipment medical practitioners use on them is safe.

These new sophisticated pieces of equipment are not very handy for sterile services departments  in many hospitals due to their very high prices and difficulty maintaining. In addition to that, the requirements and standards of the Central Sterilising Services Department  are very high, which is difficult for many hospitals' sterile services departments  to maintain. But, considering the value they are bringing to the healthcare sector, the negatives are negligible.

Advancements in Cleaning the Equipment

Microbiology and disinfection have a lot in common. For instance, nowadays, we have much knowledge about the dangers of communicable and infectious agents like diseases caused by pathogens. In addition to this, we now know about different varieties of viruses. Depending on the pathogen type, we can now customise the sterilisation method.

Sterile services

Major Problems of Traditional Sterilisation Technique

We are now aware of infection control, which has brought a public sentiment towards the importance of sterile services. In addition to that, it has been proven that the traditional style of sterilisation under high temperatures is no longer applicable for modern medical instruments. Traditional sterilisation techniques include high temperature, moisture, pressure, and absorption. Sterile services departments  in hospitals spend a fortune to buy most of these pieces of equipment. Meanwhile, these advanced medical devices are made with advanced material, which can get damaged very easily with this method.

Solutions

Users can ensure sterility and purity of the devices by many other options, as sterilisation using high temperature is not applicable. On the other hand, manual cleaning is one of the best options for sterilising devices carrying delicate elements. The manual cleaning process is always time consuming, and the chances of making errors are very high. Therefore, the sterile services technicians need to follow strict procedures for cleaning the devices.

Another best option for sterilisation is using Ethylene Oxide or ETO. ETO is a gas substance that reacts chemically with amino acids, DNA and proteins and destroys microbial cells. Though ETO is a good option, it is a highly flammable gas, and the NHS has listed it as a carcinogen (cancer-causing). Also, the process of sterilisation with ETO is very time-consuming. Hence it often requires up to seven days before a medical practitioner can use it again.

Sterilisation at Low Temperature with Sterile Services

As we saw above, medical device companies make their modern devices with delicate materials. The sterile services departments  cannot use heat or high pressure on them as they can get damaged. Here comes the role of the low-temperature technique used for sterilisation and decontamination by sterile services departments in hospitals.  But one thing to be noted here is that capital costs for this technique are very high. Also, this technique is highly complicated for sterile services technicians. Therefore, only an insignificant minority of sterile services departments  use this technique.

 Nowadays, the low-temperature technique has become cheaper, and many hospital sterile services departments  have started using it widely. As a result, sterile service providers like IHSS use the latest H2O2 or Hydrogen Peroxide technology to sterilise devices. This process is very fast and efficient. Sterile services departments  can also use it with older methods of pressure and heat.

Though the technology is not perfect in the case of low-temperature techniques, it is understood that this technique is often improving every year. Sterile Services has to ensure the safety of medical instruments on patients by purifying them with mentioned techniques before use. Also, Sterile Service Department  may work with other sterilisation techniques to make low-temperature techniques more user friendly and cost-effective.

Who is a sterile services technician?

Most patients are concerned about the safety of medical devices. Therefore, it is important to ensure that instruments and tools required for medical procedures are decontaminated and sterilised. This is where sterile services departments  and technicians come in. It is their job to ensure the safety of such instruments from the various departments in a hospital.

Such technicians reprocess various types of items. These may include:

1.Instruments frequently put to use for surgery

2.Clinical instruments for other uses 

3.Bigger and more sophisticated equipment

Sterile department technicians do these services.

1.Collecting the various items required for reprocessing

2.Carrying out the sterilisation process

3.Everything from disassembling to re-assembling the devices

4.Inspection and testing of devices

5.Critical equipment operations

6.Maintenance of digital records for all tools and equipment

7.Distribution of sterilised items 

As cross-infection is a big risk in medical establishments, the sterile services department technicians follow strict, central sterile services department accepted standards. The technicians report to a manager who oversees the Department of Sterile Services and is essential in the smooth working of healthcare workers.

Technicians are usually required to clock in 37 hours a week. As the staff in some other departments works 24x7, technicians are sometimes required to do shift work. There is also scope for doing the job on a part-time basis. In some hospitals, the sterile services departments are located in different places for higher safety. But, this brings a higher risk to sterile services department technicians as they are the ones responsible for carrying the contaminated devices.

personal protective gear

Technicians wear personal protective gear while in the middle of doing decontamination work or while carrying a contaminated device. The protective gear consists of hats, gloves, visors, etc. The surroundings can often have high humidity, and their work can often be physically tiring. There is often the need to lift, push trolleys, and stand for long periods to supervise the process. Salaries for trainees can start at around £ 15,922 in a year. In addition, there are allowances for staff living in cities like London.

How can you start your journey as a sterile technician?

NHS hospitals across the United Kingdom employ the most number of sterile service department  technicians. Some sterile services technicians are employees of private hospitals. Some others find employment in other healthcare establishments like dental centres. There are more than 20 000 sterile and decontamination technicians working in the UK. Openings are available in local newspapers, NHS job portals and other online forums.

Education & Training

There is no requirement for formal training for eligibility. But prospective employers often demand the following:

1.GCSE(A*-C) in English, Mathematics, or any other subjects in the science stream

2.Very good communication skills

3.Good teamwork skills

4.Related work experience is an added advantage

Some other qualifications that may be helpful

Training and learning are generally done with other senior colleagues. The important things that they cover are:

 1.Description of the role and the importance of the job

 2.Rules and regulations and other safety and health matters

 3.A basic understanding of microbiology and control of infections

 4.Specific needs for sterilisation, testing, inspection, cleaning, and packaging function

 5.Material and transport management

 6.Digital tracking of sterilised packages

 7.Databases

Successful trainees have the option of completing their competency in training by taking the required certification programmes. The management staff must get membership in IDSc Or the Institute of Decontamination Sciences. 

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