What Is the Impact of a Comprehensive Educational Program on Sterilization Processes in the Outpatient Physician Office Setting

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      Invasive procedures are routinely done in the outpatient physician office setting. Outpatient physician offices are often licensed for business occupancy and are not required to have accreditation, which limits health care regulatory requirements and mandated reporting. Furthermore, physician office staff often do not have the training or background education for proper instrument reprocessing. A potential risk of performing invasive procedures in the outpatient physician office setting include improperly sterilized or disinfected equipment and instruments, and the transmission of infectious pathogens to patients. The objective of this study was to improve sterilization processes and compliance with Center for Disease Control recommendations.


      We conducted a pilot study at 13 outpatient physician offices that perform reprocessing of surgical instruments and equipment over the course of 1 year. A comprehensive tracer audit tool was developed to assess the level of compliance with Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for sterilization and high-level disinfection in the outpatient physician office setting. A list of approved reprocessing supplies was created to standardize the process. Medical assistants and licensed vocational nurses who were responsible for performing sterilization received comprehensive education from a sterile processing educator. Their reprocessing skills were validated during a follow up visit that included a competency.


      Sterilization practices were improved as a result of this study and were demonstrated by competency validation and improved compliance scores on the trace audits at all 13 offices.


      This study found that a comprehensive education program did improve compliance on sterilization processes in the outpatient physician offices which was demonstrated as by competency validation and increased compliance scores on the tracer audits at all offices. The improved sterilization processes have reduced the risk of infection and exposure to infectious pathogens in addition to reducing risk for the organization.
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