HELENA – Keeping patients at a hospital safe and healthy is not an easy task, but for the eleven member team of St. Peter’s Hospital Central Sterilization Room in Helena, it’s their most important job.
The team works tucked away inside the walls of the hospital, and sterile processing Supervisor Bill Treharn calls their environment, “the heart of the hospital.”
Before anyone can go inside the clean assembly room, everyone has to be covered in surgical attire – from your head all the way down to your shoes.
Maintaining this clean environment is critical to the entire hospital system.
“Our main focus is on the community and making sure the patients stay here safe,” Treharn explained.
Recently, St. Peter’s renovated the work space, expanded the surgical warehouse by about 35 percent and upgraded the equipment.
“We have new furniture, new lights, new stainless steel table surfaces and the expanded storage helps us serve the community better,” added Treharn.
Some of the equipment upgrades included a new, lower temperature sterilization machine, known as the Sterrad 100 NX, which is used on specialty tools like scopes or ones that cannot handle the usual high temperature cleaning process.
“This is the first one in Montana of this brand. We were the first hospital to purchase one, and we’re really super proud of this machine,” Treharn mentioned.
There are two other, high temperature sterilization machines that run for over an hour.
“It’ll hit 270, 271 [degrees] maximum, and then it’ll start a cool down phase,” Treharn
said, adding that the whole process from start to finish takes a little over three hours.
Another part of the renovations include a paperless system.
“They [the tools] have a barcode that we put on them and it will tell them if it belongs with that set. So we’ll always know where this set has been, when it needs maintenance, when it needs to be sharpened,” explained Treharn.
This program, called Censitrac, allows this team to track instruments from decontamination and sterilization to their destination in the hospital or clinic to ensure proper sterilization processes are followed for every tool each step of the way.
St. Peter’s Hospital also started incorporating a Lumen Scope, which allows each staff member to get a closer look inside small and narrow tools.
“What we’re looking for is any foreign bodies, rust, any leftover particles from the brush,” he said.
This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure hospital staff have the tools they need, when they need them.
Their job may be hidden, but that doesn’t make their work invisible.
“Anywhere where they would use an instrument, we supply that,” Treharn said.