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Why I Wrote a Book about Sterile Processing: Reading between the Trays

When I began my sterile processing career more than ten years ago, I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. At the time, I was going to school full time to finish a master’s degree in theology, with plans to continue on to law school and become an attorney. A friend of mine had gotten a job at a local hospital in the materials management department and heard that a department called sterile processing was hiring people with no healthcare experience. Even better, the position had different shifts, so I would be able to go to school in the morning and work at night.

Without knowing where the decision would eventually lead me, I put in an application and hoped for an interview. Fast forward four years and I was managing one of the largest sterile processing departments in Kentucky, and would soon lead our team to develop the concept of the Triple Crown Certification, which became an entire certification movement across the country. In 2016, our department would go on to win the CS/SPD Department of the Year award from Healthcare Purchasing News, and in 2017 I would be nominated for president of the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM). One job application in 2009 had changed the course of my entire life.

So why write? The reason for The Front Line book
Early on in my sterile processing experience, I caught the bug, as we like to say. The lightbulb went off in my head that this job I took to get me through school could actually become a career. And not only that, I could see myself loving it! So I did what almost every person does who falls in love with a topic—I tried to find every resource I could and dig in.

I quickly discovered that the available resources about our industry were severely limited. At that time, you had four basic options: read a certification textbook, read an industry standard, read an instruction for use (IFU), or read one of the few monthly industry magazines that covered our profession. And nearly every one of these was providing primarily technical information. As important as those things were, I wanted to know more. I wanted to know things like:

  • How do I navigate politics in my department and grow as a sterile processing leader?
  • Why don’t our shifts get along with each other?
  • What is the heart behind our profession?
  • Is it okay to bring new technology into our department if it helps the workflow?
  • Are there better ways of doing things than what our industry has done before?

In short, I wanted to read something that would talk to me like a friend would over coffee, not necessarily like a professional would speak to a student in a lecture hall. As the years passed and my own understanding of our industry grew deeper, I realized that this need still wasn’t being met as well and as often as it should be.

Groundbreaking educational publication
Through a real example of industry collaboration, the team at Ultra Clean Systems, Inc. (and their weekly NewSplash publication) has partnered with me to finally start making this dream of straightforward sterile processing content a reality. As of this month, the first volume of The Front Line: Think Outside the Tray and Make the Most of Your Sterile Processing Career will be released in paperback. In this innovative new book, you will encounter insights and perspectives on the life-saving work of sterile processing professionals from the basement to the boardroom, and see the value that each of us plays in keeping patients safe, regardless of our job title.

Just as exciting, The Front Line book is breaking new ground in our industry as the first publication of its kind to provide pre-approved continuing education (CE) credit to its readers. Each chapter has associated study questions to give you and your team or technical students the opportunity to apply the content to your own department and experience. Upon purchase of the book, a QR code is provided to give you a unique access key to receive your 4.5 CE credits once you complete the study questions.

I could not be more thrilled to share this book with you, and sincerely hope that it serves to ignite (and perhaps reignite) the spark inside each and every one of us who don scrubs and destroy microbes in departments across the globe.

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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