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The Sterile Processing Webinar Is Dead: Long Live the Webi-Next

I’m going to wager an educated guess that 99% of the sterile processing professionals reading this sentence have seen zero webinars in the past year. If you’re one of the elusive 1% who have, hang in there; I think you’re still going to appreciate what comes next.

Technological death in plain sight
The first question we must answer for the demise of the sterile processing webinar is why it happened? Perhaps an even more poignant question is why no one seemed to notice? I believe one of the primary causes for the technological death of the webinar is the assumption that these video presentations would be viewed while at work. But with nearly 50% of our industry still without a computerized instrument-tracking system, large swaths of our frontline technicians would be lucky to have one computer station on the processing floor, and even fewer with more than that. Without easy access during the day for large percentages of the potential audience, the technology itself could never truly take root.

For the hypothetical 1% of sterile processing professionals that do tune in to traditional webinars, a number of prerequisites have to come together at once to make it work for them:

  • They must have access to a computer (and hopefully a chair).
  • They must have time available to view the webinar (many of these are in excess of 30 minutes, some even run up to an hour).
  • They must be able to schedule this time irrespective of the workload or surgical volume on that particular day. Not all webinars are delivered live on a set schedule, but many are.
  • They must be aware of the availability of the webinar ahead of time to register and plan on attending.

The consolidation of information: power to (some of) the people
If it’s true what School House Rock taught us, that “knowledge is power,” then the experience of the traditional sterile processing webinar is a commentary on who the industry thinks deserves to have the knowledge, and therefore the power. When you read the list of prerequisites for tuning into a webinar above, did any of you think, “Yeah, a technician can do that”? Probably not. Have you ever seen a sterile processing department where a technician can approach their manager and get permission on Tuesday of next week to leave the department, and spend one hour watching a webinar on water quality simply because she is interested in it? What about the rest of the staff who might want to watch other webinars at different times of the day throughout the week?

You get the picture. Even department managers who want to be supportive of continuing education for their frontline technicians understand the traditional webinar model leaves much to be desired, in both timing and delivery of the content, if it is to be truly accessible to (and accessed by) the average sterile processing technician. If we are honest with ourselves, most webinars are designed, marketed, scheduled, and expected to be viewed by department decision makers—managers, directors, and other perioperative leaders. In one sense, that makes total sense. If webinars are built around particular product categories, vendors who sponsor them will want the content to be delivered to the kinds of people who can purchase those products at some point in the future. That’s just good economics. But because this traditional model doesn’t consider how best to reach entire departments, including frontline technicians, it’s not necessarily good education.

Getting from the webinar to the webi-next
Since I haven’t said it yet, let’s say it here: the traditional webinar is not innately broken. For other industries and contexts it may work like a charm, but to meet the real needs of the entire scope of the sterile processing industry, we need something more, something different. To find out what that something is, we need not look very far, but we do need to get a little more creative. Here are a few points to consider for how to get us from the traditional webinar model to what we can call the webi-next:

  • To overcome the existing lack of easy computer access, webi-next video content should be able to be delivered via smartphone or wearable devices.
  • To overcome the difficulty of taking technicians off the processing floor to receive content, webi-next offerings should be available in pure audio format as well, similar to the information on the Beyond Clean podcast.
  • To overcome the need to schedule and register for content delivery, webi-next education should be accessible 24/7 after initial posting.
  • To overcome various time constraints placed on frontline technicians, video content on a webi-next platform should be available in short, succinct video clips that can be watched during a brief team huddle (<5 minutes), over a break (<15 minutes), and during a staff meeting or lunch (<30 minutes).
  • To overcome the epic boringness of most webinars, producers of webi-next content must get out of their scripted comfort zones and get creative with what they discuss and how they discuss it.

For Millennials (and those coming along after them) in this industry, this list seems almost intuitive. But for many subject matter experts who are currently presenting or producing webinars, the Millennial mindset regarding how best to leverage technology and content delivery may not be shared or fully understood. The challenges here are not ultimately content related, but are instead rooted in a few fundamental disconnects between the how, when, and where sterile processing technicians prefer to receive educational content.

If video killed the radio star, the sterile processing webinar might have caused its own demise. However, there is still hope for a content revolution of sorts, one that grabs hold of the next generation of frontline technicians without leaving behind those who have historically missed out on traditional webinar offerings. The webinar is dead: long live the webi-next!

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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