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Recognition When the Spotlight Is Off

Sterile Processing Week has come to a close. The pizza parties, cookies, and banners have all come down, and here we sit in our hospital basements waiting for the next 51 weeks to slide by until recognition hits and our department comes into the spotlight once again. The impact of sterile processing (SP) we know and understand is monumental, but how can we feel acknowledged, valued, and a critical component of patient care daily as we step into our scrubs and personal protective equipment (PPE)? This article will outline ways we can keep what we do in the spotlight year-round.

Idea one: Share your department’s work and contribution with the hospital marketing team and human resources departments
Your hospital likely has a marketing team that writes company newsletters and manages social media. These departments tend to focus on the heavy lifters in the hospital: physicians, community outreach, and nurse recognition are all great contributors and deserve the spotlight. Yet, sometimes not sharing what SP does isn’t a negligible offense; it’s simply because they are unaware of all you do. Here are some suggestions for leadership. Identify who writes the company newsletter and ask how to submit information about what your department contributes. Then ask the frequency of the newsletter. Is it biweekly, monthly, or quarterly? Ask if they are ever looking for submissions and hospital recognition gaps. Would they be open to a quarterly spotlight on what we do in SP?

This is where it can get fun. You likely have an all-star technician in your department that is looking to rise. Ask if they would be interested in writing a short piece (ask marketing for a desired word count) once a quarter. They can brainstorm ideas with co-workers and snap some great photos of the team for the next newsletter. This will do a few things. It will make this all-star tech feel valued, and it will stir department excitement knowing that recognition exists, even when it’s not October. Once the newsletter is published, you can print it on heavy card stock and put it in the break room to celebrate. Heck, maybe even swing by the store and grab some cupcakes for the team to celebrate recognition. 

Idea two: Create your own interdepartmental recognition program
Many employees are more motivated by praise and commendation from managers than cash perks. Try implementing an SP Tech of the Month award. You can have a box in the department where staff can nominate co-workers for the award. Printed nomination cards can be left by the box to include blanks for who they wish to nominate, why this candidate deserves recognition, and one way they’ve gone above and beyond lately. Set a deadline, say the 15th of each month, for nominations for the next month. If you think this might create unintended tension, you can have a decontamination all-star or a sterilizer guru. Make it fun and get staff involved. The key here is that we are recognizing each other and celebrating wins often. You can have an old-school Polaroid or photo printer in the department and a rotating cork board with frames where you can swap out the all-stars with little effort and time invested. Making recognition a priority will help staff feel valued, and anticipatory.

Idea three: Create a Caught Caring program (peer-to-peer recognition)
This is similar to employee of the month and individual employee awards, but is focused on your hospital’s mission statement and core values. This can be an annual or monthly award. If we are honest, most of us couldn’t state what our hospital’s mission and core values are, yet we should really know them and celebrate these values and make them part of our focus. This program can replace the employee individual awards, or act as a bonus MVP award. The board would include, in bold, the mission statement and core values of your organization. Next comes the award cards. Setting this up is simple: prepare feedback forms, spread them around the staff, and reward those deserving it. You can use this feedback form from Morrill County Hospital as a starting point.1

These are just three ideas, and the ways to recognize staff and highlight your departments don’t have to cost anything but time and care. Let’s see our department celebrated, and let’s create our own recognition. It doesn’t have to be SP Week to celebrate and be celebrated. We can create an environment of recognition day in and day out, and a sincere  “thank you” or “I appreciate you” may be the simplest form of recognition that exists. We don’t have to wait to be recognized and feel appreciated; we get to create that for our departments. Now go out and show appreciation, and make the conscious decision to be the most productive member of your SP team today.


  1. https://www.morrillcountyhospital.com/Caught%20you%20Caring.pdf

Rebecca Kinney is a medical sales representative and small business owner of Cypress, Inc. She is a Certified Central Service Vendor Partner (CCSVP). Rebecca has worked in healthcare for more than 15 years: 7 years as a sterile processing technician and 8 years in medical sales working directly with SP. Focused on a proactive and consultative approach, she takes her experience to share knowledge in the field she wishes she knew when she worked in SP. She actively participates in speaking engagements and uses LinkedIn as an educational tool to reach an audience of almost 30,000 professionals. 

Continual process improvement and education lending to patient safety has always been her primary objective.

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