Doris Graybill is probably too modest to admit it, but the Carroll County General Hospital employee is an unsung hero.
Thanks to her, doctors and surgeons are assured that the operating room and surgicalinstruments they use to operate on patients and deliver babies safely are properly cleaned and sterilized.
"I guess you could say we are the hub of the hospital," Graybill said.
"If it wasn't for our area, the hospital literally couldn't operate."
Since 1970, the 53-year-old Westminster resident has been working in Sterilization, Processing and Distribution to make sure that operating rooms are kept sanitary and instruments are sterilized, wrapped and returned to the hospital areas where they are needed.
Following each surgery, delivery or even a quick stitch in the emergency room, a sterilization process takes place.
"Linen packs (used on stretchers, towels, patient drapes) are replaced with fresh, sterilized linens, and all the used items are removed," said Graybill.
"The carts with dirty surgical instruments are brought to the decontamination area, where they are stripped and cleaned."
All surgical instruments are placed in a washer/sterilizer, where they are cleaned with a sterilization cleanser. Then they are removed and placed ina dryer.
"After they come through the washer and dryer, they are handled again, so we restring them on instrument stringers and place them in an instrument pan," said Graybill.
"Then we double-wrap them in cotton covers and tape them shut with autoclave tape so that they can be safely placed in the autoclave. This is to ensure that theyare sterilized after handling," she said.
"Each sterilized package is dated for 30 days and considered unsterile after that time."
On a typical day, 35 to 40 used carts pass through Sterilization, Processing and Distribution, to be cleaned, sterilized and stored.
"The basic supplies are on these carts, and they are placed not only inthe operating areas, but throughout the hospital on the different wings for use by nurses and doctors," said Graybill.
"Sometimes theymight need something special (such as IV solution or a sterile dailylinen for a patient with allergies) that is not on the cart, and they will give us a call and we'll bring it up."
Pat Harman, the department's director, said the "behind-the-scenes work" that is done in Sterilization, Processing and Distribution is vital.
"What Doris and 23 other employees do allows the nurses to do other things, as opposed to scrubbing instruments," Harman said. "Doris is ideal. She comes to work early, she stays late. She is always there."
Graybill's"level of expertise is excellent," said operating room nurse Sharon Muller.
"The bottom line is, without Doris and the services of SPD, we couldn't do the procedures."
In addition to sterilizing and distributing surgical items, Graybill, who is a senior aide, provides training for new employees.
"We have college students that come towork in the summer, as well as new employees from time to time," shesaid.
"I show them how to restock carts and where the supplies are kept in the storage room. There are a lot of different things to goover and a lot to understand," said Graybill, who works 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
"My work has always been enjoyable and interesting for me," she said. "I wouldn't have been here 21 yearsif I didn't like it."