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The Fabulous Four: Getting Social Media Right in the Name of Sterile Processing

When I took my first sterile processing manager role just six short years ago, I was not a fan of cell phones on the floor or Internet access on department computers (besides required websites for instructions for use and intranet capabilities). In my mind, the Internet was and could only be a distraction from the critical tasks before our team.

But my mindset is rapidly changing as the medical device reprocessing industry as a whole begins to wake up to the amazing opportunities available for networking, collaboration, and clinical education delivered via the various social media platforms. This article will take a look at four of the biggest players in the social media space today, and sketch out some of the tremendous value they hold for reaching our frontline technicians and department leaders around the globe.

Facebook: The friend of sterile processing
In terms of active sterile processing users, there is no debating that Facebook has the biggest current footprint in our industry. A rough estimate of 40,000 followers can be found in a handful of the largest SPD Facebook Groups alone, with names like “Sterile Processing Professionals” (16K+ members), “Sterile Processing Techs – Travelers and Recruiters” (12K+ members), and “CSSD Tech Media” (10K+ members). These networks are active, engaged, and cover a broad spectrum of sterile processing topics from equipment recommendations, professional insights, regulatory focus, and recruiting opportunities.

Because a burgeoning network is already present on Facebook, the biggest opportunity on this platform is to provide its users with real subject matter expertise along the myriad categories that touch best practice and compliance in our industry. Like the rest of the social media platforms we will discuss, care will need to be taken to package content on Facebook in a manner that social media users are comfortable consuming. It is clear that there is a huge appetite for clinical knowledge in these circles, and it appears to be growing every day.

LinkedIn: Connecting thought leaders with content
While the sheer size of networks we see on Facebook is not present on LinkedIn, there is a tangible difference in the type and scope of conversations being had regarding sterile processing topics on this platform. Users on this site are much more likely to be department decision-makers such as supervisors, managers, directors, and perioperative leaders, so the content presented here tends to be more along the lines of new products, innovations, and leadership recruiting.

Because of the larger number of sterile processing manufacturers and media contacts present on this network, department leaders who want to be involved in future research and development conversations that could impact their teams have easy access to the very folks who can make it happen. More than any other platform, LinkedIn provides the means to develop thought leadership in the sterile processing industry on both a local, regional, and even global scale. Magazine editors and eager manufacturers can see your content and reach out with offers to collaborate. Today the networks are still small enough to grow your profile from zero to a key opinion leader quicker than anywhere else.

YouTube: Watch your (cleaning) steps
Out of all the platforms listed here, YouTube is probably one of the most undervalued websites in light of its potential to positively impact the sterile processing masses. With a few noted exceptions, native YouTube content regarding medical device reprocessing is almost nonexistent. Considering the number of complex equipment, processes, and regulatory frameworks our teams engage with on a daily basis, there is very little video content to be found that touches on these topics anywhere on the largest video web-hosting hub on the globe.

The weakness of current sterile processing YouTube content is also its greatest strength and glaring opportunity. Individuals or organizations who decide to jump into the video content waters in a creative and engaging fashion could capture the attention of these users almost overnight. Complex tasks such as user maintenance on equipment and protein detection testing are perfect candidates for visualization and posting on this platform.

Instagram: Seeing is believing
Rounding out these fabulous four social media platforms is Instagram, perhaps one of those services you may have never thought would be a source for valuable content in our industry. Believe it or not, there are more than 10K posts on the #SterileProcessing Instagram hashtag alone, covering topics from instrument identification, leak testing endoscopes, personal protective equipment (PPE) usage, team recognition, and professional humor. As with the previous platforms discussed, users of Instagram span the globe, adding an international flavor of, and window into, the different practices followed by sterile processing teams around the world.

There are a couple of Instagram superusers in our industry who are doing a terrific job engaging the SPD network on this platform, and because of the visual nature of native Instagram content (including the ability to post videos), we have the opportunity to shine an even greater light on the things that many outside our facilities may never see. What does a used loaner instrument tray look like coming back from the operating room? How easy is it to test the insulation on your laparoscopic graspers? What kind of material should be used to test the sharpness of your scissors? Educational graphics and short videos created with Instagram users in mind would populate this platform with the kind of content that can drive best practice and push our industry forward.

If you are a manager looking for every way possible to get you people disconnected from technology at their jobs, perhaps this article will plant a seed to consider another way. Maybe instead of pulling the plug, it is possible to make those Internet clicks worth our time and bring our teams one step closer to best practice. I am not saying it will be easy, but I am saying that technology is not going way, so it is in our best interest to find a way to make it work for us.

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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