Cleanliness is crucial

At Work

Derrick Walden, Central Sterile processing manager, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore

November 23, 2008|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Salary: $70,000

Age: 38

Years on the job: 18

How he got started : After serving in Desert Storm, Walden took a job as a technician in the central sterilizing department of a hospital in the Philadelphia area. While working full time, he completed his bachelor's degree in criminal justice and health care administration at Temple University. He later moved to Maryland and took a job at Johns Hopkins Hospital in its central sterilizing department. He switched to his job with Sinai Hospital five months ago. He's certified by the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management and the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution. Both must be updated on a regular basis.

Central sterile: This is the hospital's department responsible for cleaning and sterilizing medical and surgical supplies, instruments and equipment used in operations and medical procedures. The instruments are also packaged into specific surgical kits to be used during operations.

Typical day: Central Sterile, which Walden oversees, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He works from about 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Walden said he acts as quality control for the department, so he often pops in during weekend hours.

"You need to see what goes on during the hours you're not normally here," said Walden.

He manages 42 employees and says he views his job much like that of a small-business owner since he looks after scheduling, payroll and the department's overall budget. Although he is often in his office taking care of paperwork, returning phone calls and hiring personnel for his team, he also is regularly attending meetings throughout the hospital. He will also put in time in the processing unit, working with his staff sterilizing and packaging instruments.

Walden said he works closely with the operating room department, as well as clinics within the hospital. Central Sterile packs instruments for about 44 cases each day to be used in scheduled operations, but it's not uncommon for another 10 cases to be added as emergency procedures arise. Instruments take about three hours to process and sterilize from start to finish.

Importance of the job: "The tray you are preparing today could be for your parents or a loved one."

This hit home for Walden after his brother was brought into a hospital where he worked for emergency knee surgery. A tray from Walden's central sterilizing department was used during the operation.

The good: "There's never a dull moment here. It's a continuing challenge."

The bad: A negative perception of the department. "This is not a dishwasher job or a cleaning job. It's critical that we give sterile products each and every day. Having compassion typifies our employees."

Philosophy: "I want to provide the best instruments to the surgical staff so they can perform their best when doing their job."

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