AAMI News November 2017

Retired Sterile Processing Manager Calls for More Recognition in the Field

Tom Klick, Jr.
Tom Klick, Jr.
retired in 2016 after 38 years in the sterile processing field. He ended his career as the manager of the Sterile Processing Department at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in California.

Q How did you get into the sterile processing field?

While attending junior college for physical therapy (PT), I got a job at Peninsula Hospital in Burlingame, CA in the Accounting Department as an assistant inventory controller. I worked in all departments and learned more about PT and central services (CS). Later, the hospital had a job posting for PT orderly so I applied and was hired. That job launched my 44 years of employment in healthcare of which 38 were in CS, also called sterile processing.

Q What positions did you hold during your career?

Before starting in CS, I was an assistant inventory controller, PT orderly/aide, orthopedic tech, and nursing orderly. Within CS, I had many positions: CS tech I and II, senior tech, coordinator, assistant supervisor, supervisor, linen supervisor, and sterile processing site manager. From 2002–2008, while I was employed at Kaiser Permanente, I had the privilege of holding the position of chair of the Sterilization Sourcing Standards Team.

Q What was the field like when you first started?

Everything was manually done with a small portion done by machines. All record keeping was done manually, as well. Regulatory agencies had very basic requirements and in many respects didn’t know what important efforts were made daily by CS staff.

Q How did the field change over the 38 years you worked in central sterile processing?

Now sterile processing is recognized as a highly technical profession that uses computers to track everything. All machines used are (or should be) state of the art and connected to computers for device-to-patient tracking. Multiple certifications are the gold standard for staff to demonstrate professional excellence.

Q What was the best part of your job?

Teaching, coaching, and developing staff; being a role model; and networking with peers and colleagues not only in California but also across the U.S. and around the world.

Q What was the biggest challenge you faced at the start of your career? At the end?

At the beginning, it was learning and remembering every aspect of my daily work. Knowing how critical and important CS work was made working with excellence even more challenging. At the end of my career, the biggest challenges were to always walk the talk; make sure my employees, students, and I all stayed up-to-date on best practices; and strive for optimum safe products, patient care, and services each day.

Q Where do you see the field headed?

I see everyone in CS—from support disciplines to regulatory agencies—continuing on a path of professional excellence for optimum safe patient care.

Q What do you think it will take to achieve this vision for the future?

The sterile processing discipline needs to be officially recognized and given respect by all levels of government worldwide. Staff also needs to be awarded state licenses just like nurses and doctors. Without sterile processing, they can’t do their work.

Q Is there anything else you would like people to know?

I would like to thank AAMI, the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM), the California Central Service Association, and other organizations. I would also like to thank everyone that I’ve had the honor to work with, including Clarence Diggles, Francis Clay, Dr. Douglas Grey, John C. Martinez, Teresa McLaren, Erica Stewart, Enid K. Eck, Robin Di Muccio, Betty Andersen, and Melody States, as well as everyone at Healthmark and SPSmedical—Cyndy Allen and Bill Butler. Thanks everyone!