In times of COVID-19, the leading question in the healthcare industry is “what can be done to facilitate safe and clean sterile (CS) processing departments?” With more than 20 years of experience, I can guarantee that the standards or best practices for cleaning and maintaining the sterile processing department do not change with the introduction of a new bacteria or virus into the area. 

We are mandated as professionals to hold true to the rules and guidelines for environmental cleaning in sterile processing departments. The process of thorough environmental cleaning limits the number of microorganisms that can be transferred to the patient and the healthcare worker. 

The cleaning process does not, and has not, changed in this department; what has changed is the diligence in which CS departments are working to be sure the cleaning is properly executed on a daily schedule. Using resources, like oneSOURCE, that provide healthcare professionals with easy access to these standards allows facility staff to be efficient in maintaining a safe environment, while offering quality patient care.

Cleanliness Is Key

The Central Service Manual teaches us that: “The cleaner the work area, the more likely that products prepared in CS will be safe for use in a sterile environment.” Bacteria, viruses, bloodborne pathogens, and fungi can be transmitted by contact with items, instruments and people, which includes inanimate objects such as door handles, computers, telephones, case carts, and basic work areas. This transfer of bacteria or virus is contained by routinely cleaning the area and all touch points. 

Moreover, both AAMI and the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses recommend that, at the end of the day, the sterile processing department is terminally cleaned the same way as the operating, delivery, and invasive procedure rooms. With this knowledge, we know that the basic standard for fighting any virus is to clean, clean, and clean some more.

Changes Ahead? 

So, when asked, does the current COVID-19 pandemic change our process in the healthcare field? The answer is no. The environmental concerns do not change with each new form of bacteria, virus, or fungi. 

The pandemic should only change our workflow, because some hospitals are seeing a decrease in surgical cases. Our commitment to patient care does not stop. The products used daily in a hospital to combat infectious diseases, like hepatitis A, B, C; influenza A and B; measles; norovirus; poliovirus; and SARS-associated coronavirus remain the same. Also, remember that washing your hands and cleaning items that you touch, while keeping your hands away from your face is of the utmost importance. 

Neither the World Health Organization nor the Centers for Disease Control have provided any instructions as to differing processes or outlined a new product needed to specifically kill the novel coronavirus. However, the Centers for Biocide Chemistries recently released a list of 143 Environmental Protection Agency-approved coronavirus-fighting products. This list contains the basic cleaning products used daily, such as Purell surface sanitizer, Purell surface disinfectant, Clorox bleach and disinfecting spray, Clorox hydrogen peroxide cleaner disinfectant, and Lysol brand products. Basically, decreasing the spread of coronavirus comes down to using cleaning agents as much as needed to maintain a germ-free department. 

Further, the sterile processing department must continue to transport contaminated items in leak-proof and puncture-proof plastic containers and spray contaminated items with a multi-active enzyme solution. To effectively take every measure to reduce and eradicate the potential for spreading any viruses, countertops, tables, doorknobs, walls, and floors are to be routinely cleaned and disinfected—essentially, all surfaces that are touched. 

Clean, and then clean again, as needed, while continuously washing our hands. This is sterile processing 101 at its best.

Sharon Greene-Golden, BA, CRCST, CER, SME, FCS, is a oneSOURCE consultant and a manager at Adventist Health Care Shady Grove Medical Center. Questions and comments can be directed to chief editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at [email protected].