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Behind closed doors, SPD techs epitomize patient safety

William Beaumont Army Medical Center’s Sterile Processing Department (SPD) celebrated International Central Service Week, Oct. 14-20, to show appreciation and raise awareness of SPD staff duties and impact on the organization’s thousands of patient encounters each day.

Story by Marcy Sanchez
William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office

William Beaumont Army Medical Center’s Sterile Processing Department (SPD) celebrated International Central Service Week, Oct. 14-20, to show appreciation and raise awareness of SPD staff duties and impact on the organization’s thousands of patient encounters each day.

The International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management celebrates CS week starting every second Sunday of October. In celebration of CS Week, WBAMC SPD technicians participated various activities to build camaraderie.

Central Service professionals are members of the health care team responsible for cleaning and sterilizing surgical instruments, a process essential for patient safety.

“SPD is kind of the background of operations for the entire hospital,” said Alma Mendivil, sterile processing technician. “We service more than the OR, we service outlying clinics, clinics within the facility, and the (El Paso VA Healthcare System) so it’s nice to have that recognition.”

WBAMC’s SPD section sterilizes an average of 11,000 instruments each month to support the hospital’s , with some sets of instruments containing over 200 pieces, which may need to be broken down if dictated by manufacturers.

“Our techs follow (required) steps, they follow all protocols and guidelines from all the agencies that govern us to make sure that set doesn’t cause a surgical-site infection, and that set is ready to be used,” said Capt. Javier Barajas, clinical nurse officer in charge, SPD. “(Sterilization) is a step process. If one of those steps are not done then the instruments aren’t sterile and they can’t be used on patients.”

With each new surgical procedure introduced at WBAMC, technicians must train on the proper decontamination/ sterilization processes required for the procedure’s instruments, to include assembly and disassembly and functionality tests for specialized tools.

“We’re always going, fast paced, never stopping, our department is 24/7 so we’re always working,” said Mendivil, a native of El Paso, Texas. “Our job is very critical to the mission, without us infection control is not possible. (SPD) provides sterile instrumentation for use throughout surgery, and throughout the clinics that require basic procedures. Anything from ‘let me see what’s up your nose’ to surgery.”

While every hospital employs SPD technicians, WBAMC techs are unique, supporting sterilization of instruments from 32 clinics, to include operating room and VA care.

“Even though it’s indirect patient care, without SPD there’s no surgeries, no invasive procedures, there’s very little you can do as a hospital,” said Barajas, who has been with WBAMC’s SPD for over a year. “Now that I’m here I see all the tremendous work they do, its non-stop operations 24/7 all year long.”

While WBAMC’s SPD is comprised mainly of civilians and contractors, five active-duty Soldiers provide leadership and capability as they traditionally compliment the section from OR-related positions, such as OR technicians and perioperative nursing. Doing so, increases Soldier readiness for these specialties when they are assigned to Field Hospitals or Combat Support Hospitals for field operations.

More learning opportunities will become available for SPD technicians and Soldiers as they prepare for operations out of the Fort Bliss Replacement Hospital, with an expected increase in surgical capabilities and minimally-invasive robotic surgeries requiring specialized technical expertise.

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