Let others know...

It’s Common Sense: A Limiting Belief

There is no such thing as common sense in central sterile services.

I have yet to meet any technician who was a born natural at incubating a biological control. I would love to meet that autoclave protégé that just knew their way around the control panel of a steam sterilizer. With that being said, why do we default to the phrase “it’s common sense” when the process doesn’t lead to the desired outcome? What does this phrase actually change or solve in the way the process was done? The answer is nothing. “It’s common sense” is a limiting belief that offers no real solution to problems and only serves as a way to preserve “how we’ve always done it.”

What is common sense?
“Common sense” describes an action that most people view as an acceptable way of performing a task. If done so in this common way, the task will lead to the desired outcome. The term “common” is used to describe the level of ease that is expected in the determination of said actions. Status quo. Recurrent. Innate. All common ways to describe—common. However, we can’t elaborate on how these processes became common sense in the first place. Most of the time, we techs will imply that we were taught that way.

Regardless of how it comes out, common sense is proving to be not so common at all. As we acquire our infinite CS knowledge, we are taught the practices we will later describe as common sense. Maybe a senior technician showed us a trick or two that really stuck with us. A school’s curriculum may have taught us the reason behind our actions. It is possible that we learned how to make a decision because of our leadership’s example. Perhaps we learned through repeated trial and error; we all know there is plenty of that. Maybe we learned the hard way through a terrible outcome, or two. Regardless, we acquire through experience, environment, and our colleagues that which shapes our CS tech sense. Common sense is taught and learned. If this is so, then why are we so quick to state that fellow technicians don’t have any when they are just starting out, new to a facility, or interpreting a new process? Of course they don’t; we haven’t taught them yet!

Limiting beliefs
Central sterile techs work to develop the expertise and consistency in our practice in order to achieve the desired outcome. When we have become stuck in our own limiting beliefs, we aren’t saying this is the only way but it is obviously the best way. We are judging the performance of another technician against ourselves and how we do it. By ascribing to “it’s common sense,” we prevent fellow CS techs, and ourselves, from reaching the highest potential in our professional practice. There will always be new and different processes that will be overlooked because we have set our current practices as the standard. Although it is important to have department processes, that does not mean they are absolute. They, too, must be continuously reevaluated, reassessed, and changed in order to do what is best for the patient. The common sense process runs the risk of evolving into an outdated, unquestioned, and dangerous patient concern.

Limiting to limitless
This happens to every technician; it’s what we do to move out of the limiting space that helps us reach our highest potential as CS techs. Let us use the belief that the envelope fold is the best and only way to wrap items for sterilization. To move out of the limited belief, we have to identify the belief. We can obviously see where the limitedness is present in this statement. There are a multitude of ways to sterilize instruments: peel pouches, rigid containers, and even the square fold. The next step is to figure out when we made that stiff determination. Did we learn it in school or technician training? Did we try it a different way and were reprimanded? Was this passed on to us from someone else? How long ago? When? After we have isolated and pinpointed when we adapted this into our technical application, we can identify the probability for its inaccuracy. Maybe this is the only technique we execute well. Perhaps we came from a facility that only wrapped their instrumentation. There might even be a chance that we knew it wasn’t accurate and we just wanted to be right. Finally, start making a new common sense! The evidence we find will either show us how closed-minded we’ve been or solidify the importance of the practice in an exact way. With either outcome, our professional and technical skills grow.

Before we utter “what’s so hard to get,” we must evaluate why we are apt to jump to this before doing the critical analysis necessary to actually address the concern. There is always the possibility that the technician has been deemed senseless or is stubborn when faced with a situation that contradicts their own ideas. There is certainly a chance that selfishness and ego are driving the decisions. The most likely scenario is that the CS tech just didn’t know and was doing what their common sense deemed right. Had we just chalked it up to lacking common sense, we would have missed this chance to help them. Common sense is created by experience, trial and error, training, and personal decision-making. We owe it to ourselves and our colleagues to guide, teach, and develop each other.

Motivational author Louise Hay once said, “If you accept a limiting belief, then it will become a truth for you.” Let’s work together to only allow the best processes to become a reality for our patients.


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.

Sign up to read Sarah B. Cruz’s features in NewSplash!NewSplash is a free weekly digital newsletter dedicated to providing useful information to CS and IP professionals who strive to keep patient safety high.