In October 2017, Mercy Ships & SPECT provided a Sterile Processing course for 20 healthcare workers from 5 hospitals in Douala.
The subjects covered during this 5-day course included Microbiology, Infection Prevention, Cleaning, Disinfection, Surgical Instrumentation, Sterilization, Sterile Storage and Safe Transport.
After the course, we held a 2-day Training of Trainers (ToT) program for 10 participants who demonstrated leadership skills, had positive attitudes and excelled on their pre-and post-tests. Throughout the ToT course, participants were given an opportunity to build on their educator skills by working in small groups to teach competencies and receive constructive feedback from their peers.
Two weeks ago, roughly four months since the training, I returned to Douala to offer further mentoring and support, as well as to follow-up on goals that had been set by the ToT’s to advance their hospitals instrument reprocessing methods.
The improvements that had made within such a short amount of time were truly astounding.
One hospital jumped right into action and within a matter of days following the training they had made some major improvements to their decontamination and sterilization areas; including installing A/C units to keep the temperature low, which will help prevent microorganisms from rapidly growing. They had a stainless steel 3-sink set up built so that they can properly clean their surgical instruments and created labels/signage throughout the department so that all staff who enter are aware of the one-way flow from dirty to clean and understand the importance of protecting themselves and the items around them. They also had new doors installed to help control unauthorized staff from walking in and out of the department which will reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
Some of the hospital staff who were not in attendance of the training informed me that they’ve seen a noticeable difference in the cleanliness of surgical instruments. But what was more noticeable to them was the positive change in attitude and quality of work coming from the sterile processing staff.
Another hospital completely removed Javel (bleach) from their instrument reprocessing practices (which causes instruments to rust, stain, break etc.) and has now replaced it with a safer, more superior product, that has been available to them for a while, but they didn’t understand its purpose until the training. Now, staff understand that if instruments aren’t cleaned well first, then sterilization won’t be effective. They commented that the training they’ve received has given them full confidence in knowledge and makes them feel good knowing that when they’re teaching students and other trainees, they’re now assured that they’re teaching the best and safest practices.
At this hospital alone, they’ve already provided training for 32 staff members on the new methods they’ve learned. They also collaborated with Suzanne Veltjens, a volunteer nurse with Mercy Ships, to create a manual of procedural write-ups for 11 of their instruments sets, which will help maintain quality and reduce the risk of instruments going missing.
During my last day of follow-up I had an opportunity to see some direct results of the training in action. I was invited by the general secretary to attend a quarterly meeting for all head nurses from each department. During this meeting, I stood in the back and observed while three ToT’s from our course presented on the proper steps of cleaning surgical instruments. It was one of my proudest moments, to see these individuals who only four months ago were hesitant to embrace these new concepts, to now, where they were the ones teaching their colleagues with confidence and flawlessly answering the same questions that they had asked not long ago. It was a moment that myself and many others working in Medical Capacity Building rarely get to witness. A moment of true affirmation that the knowledge we’re imparting through education and training is being well comprehended and passed on to others in the hospital, leading to ultimate change and support of safe surgery in Cameroon.