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Professional Aspirations: Breathe Life into Sterile Processing 

Let’s recall the last time we were inspired by sterile processing. This may have been when we started our first job in the field, passed our certification test, or helped in a high-stress situation. In that moment we felt pulled by our ambition and motivation to look to the outcome of our endeavors. Whatever this outcome was, it compelled us to thrive and shine in our professional brilliance. We were inspired to achieve our end goal.

When we begin to feel stuck, stagnant, and frustrated in our sterile processing careers, it may be because inspiration is blocked. That’s not to say that there aren’t daily expectations that result in successful patient safety; we can absolutely perform our jobs effectively while experiencing these feelings. However, due to the lack of inspiration, we begin hyperfocusing on the immediate concerns around us rather than the long-term results or goals we originally felt inspired to strive for. Our inspiration is blocked by our own focus on the situation around us.

From inspirations to aspirations
One feels inspired because of their commitment to the outcome and results of a situation. Maybe we feel inspired to become sterile processing technicians because of the positive effects it may have on our home life. Maybe a hardworking family member inspires us to work hard to achieve certification. When we are inspired by something, we feel the effects of motivation and drive toward our defined end goal. This end goal is also known as our professional aspiration.

Professional aspirations are the vision of our career future. They are what we hope to achieve in the years to come. While professional aspirations’ outcomes are often definitive and tangible (e.g., a new job and becoming certified) they are personified by the feelings that encourage us to move ahead in achieving them. Aspirations are our ability to commit to the long-term outcome of our goals.

Here and now
Professional aspirations require hope and inspiration. Unlike aspirations, hope and inspiration are less tangible and often difficult to articulate. They are the feelings we have that are associated with the outcome of our long-term professional goals. This is why aspiration is so easily forgotten and superseded by the emotions of a current moment. It is easier to succumb to the emotions we are feeling in the present moment than the feelings we want for ourselves in the future. This is especially true when current emotions can be so overwhelming in calling for our immediate attention.

One reaction to a discouraging and high-stress scenario could be to judge the people and components that lead to the frustration. It’s normal to initially project overall frustrations outward and away from ourselves. However, if we approach the situation inspired and focused on our professional aspirations, we will find an opportunity to respond and refocus. It is important to revisit these moments; it is in this reassessing that we find our professional aspirations trying to speak to us.

Refocusing on our aspirations occurs when we revisit these reactive moments. In our reactive moment, we are identifying what we don’t want or like. Maybe it was the outcome, how the team reacted, how much work we had to carry—the list can go on and on. By doing this, we have effectively made a list for everyone else’s professional aspirations except our own. This list can be easier to create than the list of things we do want for ourselves. Refocusing and revisiting the moment with the intention to assess our own involvement will create the potential for our own growth. This is not suggesting that we assume all responsibilities for the outcome and individuals involved. What this does is allow us to look at our contributions objectively. We can ask ourselves moment-specific questions, like “Did I perform the way I wanted to?” or personal questions, such as “Now that I see how I am reacting in these moments, how can I respond more effectively?” We can even ask more broad professional questions, like “Is this department going to help me reach my goals?”

Keeping our future in mind, the focus of improvement will highlight the areas we need to keep moving forward with our aspirations. This approach will create a mindset that is focused on our long-term goals. Professional aspirations cannot be fueled when we are fixated on the outcome of individual current moments or the short term. We must consider how the moments add up to create the overall picture. Take a hard stop and ask yourself how the outcome of this moment affects your overall long-term goals.

The future
Take a hard stop for an honest assessment. Let’s bring ourselves to the moment that we feel discouraged and our inspiration and hope is blocked. It is easy to stay in this moment; many sterile processing professionals do. Then this moment becomes compounded with the next moment, and the moment after that, ultimately resulting in the overwhelming feelings of being stuck, stagnant, and frustrated.

Have you ever noticed how moments of frustration are usually accompanied by deep sighs? If we are exuding deep sighs, we are not breathing life into our professional aspirations. Take a deep breath and hold it, for just a moment. Before exhaling, ask yourself what are you breathing life into? Is this breath going to a stuck, stagnant, frustrated current state of mind or are you connecting with the hope and inspiration that lead your professional aspirations and well-being. While hope is not a strategy, it is beautiful and vital to achieving our professional goals. It has brought us this far. Do not abandon your hope to a moment that may not matter in the grand scheme of why you are the sterile processing professional you are. Do not allow it to shortchange the sterile processing professional that you aspire to and want to become.

Sarah B. Cruz, CSPDT, CRCST, is a quality education program development coordinator for central sterile. As a CS education coordinator, she creates and institutes an education program in central sterile departments. This includes, but is not limited to, the formation of programs that onboard new employees, develop competencies, certify staff, develop LEAN process improvements, and implement standards of best practices and professional practices.

Sarah’s dedication to her industry continues as the creator and president of PRETREAT CSS, LLC, a mentorship platform used to educate, motivate, and support CS technicians’ professional development. Through tangible actions and physical indicators of success, Sarah knows central sterile services is an excellent profession to develop in as a career. She vocalizes her passion through published articles, social media, webinars, and public speaking. As an industry expert, she is passionate about her message: put the CSS in SUCCESS!

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