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Department Newsletters 101: How This One Thing Could Change Your Entire Hospital
When I began my first department newsletter as a new sterile processing manager in the fall of 2015, I honestly had no idea what I was doing. Besides enjoying writing, everything else about creating a newsletter sounded hard.

It would have to be designed.
It would have to be worth reading.
It would have to be released on a regular schedule.
And where am I going to find the time for all of this?

Fast-forward to today and I am a huge fan of the power of department newsletters to change departments, perceptions, careers, and yes, even entire hospitals. Before we get to all of that, let’s take a quick look at what I mean when I say “department newsletter.”

What is a department newsletter?
Simply put, this is a written form of communication, delivered on a regular basis to some specified audience. Sounds super exciting, right? Let me rephrase it for a little more punch. Your sterile processing newsletter is your opportunity to brag, recognize, and platform all the amazing things your team does every single day for patient safety. By writing it down, you build an undeniable record that something big, awesome, and beautiful is going on in your hospital basement or corner department. It can be as small as a single page as you get started, and could build up to multiple pages over time as you learn to get comfortable sharing all the tremendous strides your team takes toward sterile processing excellence.

In terms of content, here are a few things you can and probably should feature in a department newsletter:

  • New hires
  • New promotions
  • New certifications or degrees
  • Work anniversaries
  • New policy or procedure updates
  • New products or trials
  • New equipment or investments
  • Department quality metrics or KPIs (key performance indicators)
  • Workflow insights (differences in manual vs. automated cleaning, importance of point of use treatment, etc.)
  • Example of department education
  • Process improvement projects

Depending on the size of your department, you may have a lot to share from newsletter to newsletter or just a few updates here and there. The point is to use this as an opportunity and excuse to talk about your team and showcase all the good they are doing in their daily work.

Why are department newsletters so powerful?
One of the major value points of a department newsletter is the simple fact that probably no one else in your entire hospital is doing one. The next time you happen to be in a room with other department managers or directors from around your facility, think about this fact. You’ll see all kinds of departments represented: operating room, emergency, respiratory therapy, wound care, med surge, patient access, billing, supply chain, material management, biomedical engineering, plant services, dietary, environmental services, pharmacy, cath lab, etc. Odds are high that not a single one of them are taking the time to put together a department newsletter to share how their teams are improving patient care in your facility. This means that when your sterile processing department starts doing it, you immediately jump to the top of a very big list of very important departments at your hospital.

Besides being a unique, trend-setting move to make in your facility, department newsletters gain a lot of their power by who you send them to, namely C-suite, surgeons, and other department leaders. While there is nothing wrong with creating a newsletter to share internally among your sterile processing team, if you do not also look externally, you miss out on a huge opportunity to get your team on the radar of the very people who you need support from to take your department to the next level. Wouldn’t it be great to have your chief of surgery aware of all the certifications your team is gaining, instead of just hearing complaints about missing indicators? Can’t you see the value of presenting your CFO with your most recent cost-saving initiative related to chemical usage when you need their sign-off for a new position next month? Newsletters offer you a strategic opportunity to tell your story of quality and improvement on an ongoing basis to everybody who is anybody in your hospital system.

What are the specifics you need to know to get this done?
You’re convinced of the potential of developing a department newsletter, but now what? Here is a handful of very specifics nuts and bolts that you will need to get started:

  • Design: You can use simple programs like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Publisher to develop your newsletter template that you update with each new edition.
  • Name: You will want to spend a little time to come up with a fun name for your newsletter to make it more memorable (i.e., The Cutting Edge, Sharp Notes, The CS Courier, Sterilization Journal, The Decon Dispatch).
  • Schedule: You will need to determine a release schedule. I recommend targeting a monthly schedule to give yourself enough time to gather content, get it designed, and get it distributed without becoming too much of a stressor.
  • Distribution: You will need to gather all the email contact information you can for your staff, any of your department customers (OR, clinics, vendors, ancillary departments, surgeons), other department leaders (IP, quality, risk, facilities, etc.), and the C-suite. Depending upon the size of your hospital, this could be anywhere from 50 up to 200 emails.
  • Creation and editing: You will need someone to manage this project, but you do not need to do it alone. Some of the best newsletter content will come from your frontline technicians, lead techs, educators, and supervisors. Make sure you have at least one other person read through and edit any content prior to release.

While there is a lot more that can be said about creating an awesome department newsletter, this should be enough to get you heading in the right direction and serve as a catalyst for real progress, recognition, and pride for your team’s hard-earned accomplishments.

Heroes deserve a headline. I hope this article helps you make it happen for them.

Feature articles exclusively for Ultra Clean Systems by Weston “Hank” Balch, BS, MDiv, CRCST, CER, CIS, CHL

Weapon of Mass Microbial Destruction * Professional Clean Freak * Podcast Host * Safety Addict * CS/SPD Consultant

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