Sterile Matters: Training is not optional

By: November 2nd, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

Of the topics that we could discuss for “Sterile Matter,” training might just be one of the most important to highlight. Training is different than education. For this month, I would like to focus on the necessities of training for a few reasons:

  • Healthcare technicians, aides, nurses, or other support members come from a collage of educational and experience backgrounds.
  • Training on particular topics reduces the gap of information between people, regardless of their personal backgrounds, especially if done well.
  • Training can be facilitated in a number of ways to benefit the target audience.

There are many assumptions made concerning processing surgical instrumentation and reusable and durable equipment, handling hazardous materials, packaging goods for sterilization, etc. This occurs because those charged with the specific tasks come from various backgrounds and experience. There are often knowledge deficits that are not always immediately apparent. This can result in less than satisfactory outcomes from poor technique.

However, it is not a lost cause by any means. In fact, by following the few suggestions listed below, you could be on your way to reducing the gap of knowledge between what should be done from what is done at your facility:

  • Identify the set of tasks that might be in question (e.g., cleaning rooms, assembling surgical instrumentation, transporting critical supplies, preparing chemicals).
  • Review skill requirements and compare against typical employed workers and applicants’ experience and exposure.
  • Assess identified deficits for skill review.
  • Prioritize task complexity with any potential risks (e.g., injury to worker/patient/client, business failure or compromise)
  • Develop training materials and resources to support your higher-risk functions.
  • Create competency tools for your high-risk tasks.

Having a highly educated person in one field of experience is not a guarantee for competently performing specific or safety-sensitive tasks and functions in your area of responsibility. Specialized training will most likely be needed, if employees are beginning a new or different role.

This simple reminder could reduce not only errors, but prevent harm to someone, as in patients and co-workers.


Not only do those working in sterile processing need this- so do nurses working outside the OR where they have usually had a long training course. As a nursing student, I scrubbed and set up in the OR- this knowledge of aseptic technique was useful in many ohter areas. Nursing students do not get this and do not always understand or appreciate the necessity of sterile technique at this level. So, it is sadly, lacking at times in daily practice. As a long-term infection preventionist, I see lapses on a frequent enought basis to know that it must be part of the orientation and competency training of nursing staff. It is often not included however as a hands-on approach as we “assume” they know it already.


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