AAMI News November 2017
ONE on ONE: Jo M. Wood
Jo M. Wood is the sterile processing training and staff development manager at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA. She also is the vice president of the Massachusetts Chapter for Central Service Professionals, an executive board member for the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM), and a member of several AAMI standards committees focused on the sterilization and reprocessing of medical devices.
Q Why did you decide to become a sterile processing professional?
In 2008, I lost my job in the promotional products industry due to the recession. I was not particularly passionate about the work I had been doing and decided that I wanted to move into healthcare for a change of scenery. I learned about sterile processing when applying for entry-level positions in Boston and thought it looked really interesting. It was the first job offer I received during my six months of unemployment, and I jumped at the opportunity. I became engrossed in the work, self-studied for my certification, and earned my Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) credential after about five and a half months. The rest is history!
Q What do you do in your current position?
My team of staff development coordinators and I have several major responsibilities that make up our day-to-day work: onboarding all new sterile processing employees, checking the competency/skill of all sterile processing team members, providing one-on-one training when needed, running in-service events, and writing and revising policies. We also provide resources and support to all sterile processing employees who are studying for a certification exam.
Q What is the best part of your job?
I love that my position allows me to spread my enthusiasm for sterile processing to everyone in my department and have a positive impact on our team. Being in a position where I am able to effect change is something that is very important to me and has been a guiding force in my career.
Q What is the biggest challenge sterilization professionals face?
There are many issues that sterile processing professionals face daily in the United States, from instructions for use that are difficult-to-nearly impossible to follow in real-world scenarios to advancements in surgery that are difficult to keep pace with on the instrument side of the house. The name of our department, along with the career ladder (if there is one), varies from facility to facility, which can make it difficult to know how to advance your career. All of this—along with the fact that the work we do is largely unknown to the public—creates a perfect storm of people feeling unappreciated and unimportant.
Q What can be done to overcome this challenge?
There are many things that we can do to increase awareness of our profession, from contacting your governor to request that International Central Service Week is an official proclamation in your state to writing a letter to the editor of a local newspaper to talk about the work that we do. Also, at a department level, you can create a career ladder for sterile processing so employees have a guide for growth. In addition, it is very powerful to invite the C-suite to tour your space and teach them about the work we do and why it is so critical to patient safety. It is important to remember that this type of work is a marathon and not a sprint; if everyone spends a little time every week raising awareness of our work, that effort can snowball into something amazing.
Q What is the best career advice you were ever given?
This is two-fold: To network like there is no tomorrow and to never say “no” to an opportunity that is presented to you (especially if it feels difficult or scary!). There are so many amazing people in our industry that I was completely unaware of until I started to venture out of my facility. This was really hard for me because up until just a few years ago I was very shy and avoided meeting new people at all costs. After a little while, it started to get easier, and now it is one of my favorite parts of traveling to conferences and meetings. Because of this networking, I have been presented with so many opportunities that have ranged from serving as a subject matter expert to traveling to speak at conferences to serving on the IAHCSMM Executive Board.
Q What is the one piece of advice you’d give to someone just starting out in this field?
Make a solid effort to learn at least one new thing every single day. There are so many opportunities in our industry, and if you arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can, the possibilities are endless.
Q What do you like to do outside of work?
My strongest passion outside of sterile processing is photography. I took my first class when I was in fifth grade and have been hooked ever since. I have covered concerts for magazines, shot weddings semi-professionally, and traveled for other publications. You will rarely see me without a camera by my side because I am always working on some sort of personal photo project. My proudest photography moment was when I had one of my images selected for an exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. in 2014.