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A day in the life of a SSD Technician

Ann Crinnion is the Sterile Service Departmental Trainer; she has worked at the QE Gateshead for around

19 years. The Sterile Service team is part of the larger Decontamination service which also includes Endoscopy decontamination and Theatre logistics. There are 35 members of staff across the three areas and all team members are currently being trained in all areas to ensure resilience within the team. The basic training for the role takes approximately six months for Sterile Services and approximately six weeks for Endoscopy Decontamination, however training for SSD can be ongoing for several years as some equipment comes to SSD so infrequently and orthopaedic kit in particular can be extremely complex.

I asked Ann to tell us about the day to day running of her role, she explained:

“Upon starting my shift, I alongside the other team members participate in the shift handover. This is where any important information, requests or changes are discussed. Following the handover, I will participate in carrying out all of the required daily checks and tests on the equipment. Once the equipment has passed all the checks, We check the priority list which theatres issue SSD to ensure all the required equipment for the day is processed and ready to use. Once that is complete the team and I go about reprocessing the non-urgent equipment and responding to any ad hoc or urgent requests. A member of the team will go to all internal customers to collect any contaminated equipment and deliver any reprocessed trays/equipment back to the end user ready for use.

As I am the in-house trainer, I mentor and train all new technicians. Throughout the day I am available should any technicians require any support with particular pieces of equipment. I also receive user training from equipment manufactures then train staff on the appropriate way to decontaminate the equipment. I love training so when the opportunity became available to become an in-house trainer, I knew I could take on the role and excel at it. I am very passionate about decontamination and achieving and maintaining the highest levels of standards and instilling this within the team.

The thing I enjoy most about my role however is the team. Our team is close knit, we support each other in everything we do, we have such a low staff turnover and this is predominantly due to retirement which is indicative of the positive and rewarding environment we work in . The team are always giving back; over the Christmas period they collected money instead of sending Christmas cards and donated the funds to a Hospice and Homeless Charity. I am incredibly proud to work alongside such selfless people.”

As we know Covid-19 has hugely impacted the QE Hospital, we asked Ann how her team’s role changed because of the pandemic.

“During the pandemic patient's surgeries and procedures were cancelled, this reduced the sterile services workload dramatically, so during this time the team were redeployed to other areas of the trust. We supported areas that were struggling with staffing such as domestic services, logistics and switchboard. During this time we also utilised the downtime to carry out extensive training with all decontamination technicians to which I took lead delivering some operational training.”

I asked Ann, is there anything you want to share with the readers you think they may not know about your role?

“I think Decontamination services in its entirety is a service that no one really knows exists, it’s a service that sits in the background of the hospital going unnoticed. I don’t think people realise how integral our service is to the functioning of the hospital. The department provides a service to the QE hospital 24 hours a day 7 days a week 52 weeks of the year; we also provide a decontamination service to 50 external customers. Decontamination is also very heavily regulated and audited. The team have to comply with multiple standards and regulations. It’s also not a job for the faint hearted as we do encounter contaminated equipment, that’s probably an element of the job most don’t consider.”

Lastly Ann answered what would you say to someone considering a career in your role?

“I’d say go for it, the role is rewarding playing your part in the bigger picture. We provide such a unique service to the NHS, you know patients surgeries have been carried out successfully and you have played your part because the equipment has been cleaned to the highest levels of cleanliness.” Working as part of the decontamination team is not just a job it is a vocation.


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