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Communication, Education, & Instrument Pretreatment

Updated: May 30, 2023

Instrument Pretreatment

I spent the first part of last week at the HSPA conference in Nashville, TN. (HSPA is the Healthcare Sterile Processing Association, formerly known as IASCHMM.) I was there providing in-booth education for Stryker, and I got to hang out in their booth on Monday and Tuesday while I was giving presentations. It was so much fun!

I really enjoy teaching, and I genuinely love helping people overcome the barriers that are preventing their success. In this presentation, we were discussing the ways the OR and SPD can collaborate for instrument pre-treatment success.

Barriers to Communication

As I prepared this presentation, and as I was giving it, I was struck by the barriers that exist in the communication between our two departments. And may times, the barriers only exist because those of us in the OR are speaking one language, and our coworkers in SPD are speaking a different one. Oftentimes, we're simply miscommunicating when we're desperately trying to communicate!

Here's an example: When you need to reference a guideline, who do you reference for information?

  • AORN?

  • AST?

  • AAMI?

Wait.... Who's AAMI? As an Operating Room professional, have you ever heard of the AAMI Standards? When these standards get referenced, do you understand their significance? Chances are, if you've never heard of AAMI, or if you don't know anything about their standards, then when someone from Sterile Processing references the AAMI Standards to explain why the OR should be doing something a certain way, that recommendation falls on deaf ears. The OR response is usually something like, "Who's AAMI?" I know. I've heard it said.

What do the guidelines say?

But did you know that AAMI, AORN, and AST all have guidelines about instrument care and handling? Did you know that all three organizations have specific guidelines about point-of-use cleaning of instruments in the operating room? Here is where you can find the specific guideline from each organization:

Instrument Pretreatment Guidelines

All three guidelines say the exact same thing, they're just coming from our different professional organizations. But without an understanding and awareness of the different organizations and guidelines, we have a disconnect in our comprehension, which often leads to a failure to properly communicate.

We also need to realize that each of these organizations provides valuable content, insight, and direction into perioperative practice. One isn't more important than the other. The scope of each guideline may be different, but where they overlap, they say the same thing.

Which brings us back to the topic of instrument pretreatment, or point-of-use cleaning, and how we can collaborate for a successful instrument pretreatment process. It all starts by understanding the different organizations that are guiding our practice, which then gives us some common ground to begin the discussion with open lines of communication.

Stay tuned as we dive further into this topic. We're going to discuss the OR's role in instrument pretreatment. How can we work with SPD to take care of our instruments, protect our patients, and prevent infections? Join us again in two weeks for Part 2 of this important conversation!

Until next time,


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