Visiting the Advanced Joint Replacement Institute on the eighth floor of TriStar Centennial Medical Center is not your typical hospital experience. With panoramic views of the Nashville skyline, it feels like you have stepped into a luxury hotel with modern amenities, concierge services and valet parking for patients and their families.
Behind the beautiful facade, people, processes and technology are working around the clock to ensure quality outcomes. We went backstage with Dot King, Certified Sterile Processing Tech, to explore the Central Sterilization Unit at the Advanced Joint Replacement Institute. Dot is no stranger to healthcare; she started her career over thirty years ago at TriStar Southern Hills and worked at TriStar Centennial when it was known as Parkview Medical Center. Now, she oversees the sterilization process, which ensures that all surgical equipment is properly cleaned, counted and sterilized for all joint replacement surgeries.
The process from decontamination to sterilization takes around three hours. At what is nicknamed “Central Sterile” the team processes around 300 loads of equipment per day, and they have the method down to a science.
After a surgery finishes, all the equipment is given an initial rinse in the operating room and then compiled onto a rolling table that gets delivered to the decontamination room. The team takes inventory of every piece of equipment with a barcode scanner. The water in this area often runs over 200 degrees Fahrenheit, so the team wears a double layer of gloves to protect their hands. Other protective coverings include scrubs, a hairnet, foot coverings, a mask, a protective shield and sometimes goggles too!
Afterward, the entire table and surgical bins are run through a high-pressure wash. The extremely high temperature of the water means that the instruments dry almost instantly when they come out of the wash.
After the wash, each piece is inspected and any parts that need to be put back together are assembled and added to kits that hold all the tools the physicians and nurses need for surgery. Each box is “QA’d,” or checked for quality assurance. This ensures everything is clean and accounted for.
After the equipment has been cleaned, assembled, checked and packed back into the kits, it’s time for the final steps. The kits are wrapped in special towels and placed on a rack to go into the sterilizer. The sterilizer heats the trays without using water, which dries and sterilizes them. Finally, the finished sterile kits are placed onto racks, ready to be used for the next procedure.
Properly sterilized equipment means better outcomes for joint replacement patients at TriStar Centennial. For that, we are incredibly grateful to the hardworking team in the Central Sterilization unit for their dedication to our patients’ safety every day.
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