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How nurses impact reprocessing programs

April 04, 2013
Brian White
By Brian White

Over the years, I've seen hospitals experience significant cost-savings and waste-reduction benefits as a result of a well-integrated, well-supported reprocessing program. I firmly believe clinical staffs-especially nurses-play a critical role in optimizing the results of a reprocessing program. In this month's column, I wanted to share with you what I've learned about the impact nurses have on a hospital's sustainability efforts.

Caryn Humphrey, RN, BSN, MBA, my colleague since joining Stryker Sustainability Solutions, has helped me realize that internal advocates within a hospital largely determine whether reprocessing efforts will be successful. Caryn's knowledge of hospital reprocessing programs stems from her 12 years of experience as a nurse in a surgical unit, a hospital O.R. and an ambulatory surgery center. She and I recently discussed the importance of nurses to a hospital's reprocessing program.

"Third-party reprocessing is one of the most impactful solutions that can allow hospitals to redirect more resources toward patient care initiatives," Caryn says. "I've been fortunate enough to witness first-hand how reprocessing programs can help hospitals safely generate significant savings with almost no up-front investment and minimal disruption to workflow and operations."

Healthcare sustainability -- especially third-party reprocessing -- is a movement that will continue to impact the way hospitals work. It has become a part of many hospitals' financial decision-making and effective resource management. Nurses are a key part of this dynamic and can help encourage system-wide acceptance, which can help drive measurable reprocessing results.

Caryn is now a product manager at Stryker Sustainability Solutions. She is also a member of AORN, the Business Industry and Consulting Specialty Assembly, and the Leadership Specialty Assembly. She believes nurses must be champions for reprocessing to help hospitals get the most out of their programs. Though there are many ways nurses can positively impact a reprocessing program, including helping fellow staff members distinguish facts from misconceptions, Caryn finds that communication and involvement are foundational.

"Nurses have the opportunity to take ownership of a hospital's sustainability initiatives by becoming early adopters and promoters of the program," she says. "Many surgeons rely on nurses and trust their judgment. If a nurse requests that the surgeon substitute a reprocessed surgical instrument for a brand new one, the surgeon may listen - and the costs of the procedure could be reduced. Nurses can also launch hospital Green Teams, or join existing ones. Green Teams are known to be highly effective vehicles for influencing greener behavior throughout hospitals." In Caryn's opinion, most successful reprocessing programs are driven by people who understand that reprocessing is an essential part of how a facility should operate in an environment where resources are scarce. By entering into-and refining-a reprocessing program, hospitals can achieve significant supply cost savings, which allows them to reinvest these resources in initiatives that enhance patient care.

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