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A Professional Pivot Plan

Remember our first day in our very first central sterile services role? We opened the pressurized door through sterile storage and walked into the department dressed in hospital scrubs and dedicated work shoes, with a ton of thoughts and emotions in tow: anxious, inspired, uneasy, excited. Despite how we found central sterile services, here we were, bouffant on and ready to go. Some haven’t looked back that far in a long time, while others may have just experienced their first day yesterday.

Fast forward to our current existence in the CS profession. Do we still have that initial sense about us? For many, the excitement has faded and, with it, our professional enthusiasm. Those first-day inclinations have transformed into a stagnant expression of dedication. Annoyed, unmotivated, discouraged, and stuck are now more relatable phrases than ever before. This is where the central sterile industry loses their technicians. It’s at this point that technicians need to transition from job mentality to a career mindset. If we don’t, then many will transition out of the industry to obtain professional purpose.

Pivot point
Every technician’s first goal is to get a central sterile job and begin working. Professional purpose is initially achieved. We experience job mentality when the work we do in that job is no longer fulfilling. We have reached our professional development ceiling and our purpose is lacking. It is at this point that we must think of our next goal. Unfortunately, this realization is usually overlooked because we are not trained to react to it. Job mentality is literally doing the same action or skill set repeatedly with no internal input or emotional buy in. That is why the stagnation, lack of motivation, and even frustration is the way we begin to relate to our profession. This is why we begin to think that our once-coveted central sterile job is now a waste of energy and time. Unfortunately, our job mentality has damaged our will to develop professionally within the industry. However, our professional presence is not limited to this one expression! A professional pivot is necessary to re-engage and shake off this burn out.

Professional pivot
To professionally pivot, we must change from a job mentality to a career mindset. A career mindset rejects the notion that our CS profession is limited to our technical application. These hard skills are vital to the overall process and consistency in central sterile departments. However, if we remain rigid in our actions and do what is expected of us day after day, then we are doing a job. This limiting belief keeps us stuck within the operations of our profession and not the contribution to it. When CS technicians begin to be curious, flexible, and experimental, we will understand where we want to grow professionally. This is where the pivot to career mindset takes place. Now, that’s not saying to stop performing our job expectations. It is asking us to recognize that just because we started in one place of our profession, we are not limited to it. We can reinvigorate our professional purpose through this pivot. The dedication to our pivot plan will determine how long that lasts.

Pivot plan
A transition to a result driven motivation will help us engage in our professional outlook. There are three areas CS techs address during their professional pivot plan. First, consider the impact our actions have as we perform our job duties. Second, consider the results we want to have. Third, actualize and create motivation and traction toward these goals. When CS techs begin to operate in a career mindset, purpose will lift our professional ceilings as high as we want them to go. No longer is our professional growth indicated by job requirements. We make our own career goals in our central sterile profession. What does that even look like? Maybe it’s a monthly department newsletter. Perhaps it is sharing educational resources with our fellow colleagues. It may be posting and discussing pressing industry topics on social media. We know that the voices that contribute to our industry’s hum must be diverse. What if it is yours that we need the most? Professional purpose inspires this thought, and a pivot plan encourages it.

Career mode
We can tell we have reached the limits of a job mentality when we wake up and don’t want to go to work. Sure, we show up in our departments, but are we really there? The pressure on our bouffant-covered heads from being pressed against our professional ceilings is excruciating. Many think that means it is time to transition out of the central sterile profession and on to greener pastures. What we need is a mind shift, not a career change. We must have that major realization of how far we’ve come. Remember why and how we felt when it all started. Let’s challenge ourselves to walk into our departments tomorrow, recalling our first day. Let’s go a step further to revisit that mentality before every shift. Own that we can perform our job skills well. Move on to raising our professional ceilings by engaging a career mindset. We can evolve ourselves further by checking into that state of mind during stressful department situations. Then we can truly begin to professionally develop into the type of central sterile technician we want to be. Remember, we all do not have to be leaders to contribute to the growth of our industry. How we show up is our professional purpose personified.

Sarah B. Cruz is a certified sterile processing technician with a passion for the profession. Starting out as a veterinary assistant, she wanted to learn how to reprocess instruments in order to be more beneficial to the neurology team. She attended a CSS certification program through her local community college and it changed her life in so many ways. After leaving a profession she had for years, Sarah acquired her first job in central sterile processing. It couldn’t have been a better decision! Sarah’s professional ambition is to take her job in CSS and forge her career. The profession has opened numerous doors and opportunities for her that she feels compelled to inform everyone of their own ability to do so. Sarah is looking forward to relaying some of the goals, ambitions, and hurdles that CS technicians face in the trenches, while relaying compelling solutions that will promote patient safety and field growth.

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