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Central sterilization system

Ribbon CuttingHSC-Baylor College of Dentistry students are taking advantage of big changes this fall in the care of small-scale but valuable items: dental instruments.

This is the first semester HSC-BCD is using a central sterilization system, designed to consolidate the equipment needed to clean and organize the college’s thousands of dental instruments. Not only does the centralized system allow space for more dental chairs in the college’s clinics, it also enhances efficiency and safety for staff and dental students, says Dale Christensen, executive director of facilities services and planning.

Located on the college’s second floor, the new central sterilization area features new pre-processing units, ample workspace for employees and a new pre-vacuum steam sterilizer to supplement the two existing sterilizers that were moved from their previous location on the third floor. The sterilizers produce a “paper trail” that documents when each cycle reaches thermal disinfectant status, says Howard White, dental equipment technician, affectionately known as the sterilization “czar.”

This fall’s changes are the final step in a three-year project to update the college’s instrument management systems, which began by converting the dispensaries in smaller clinics into satellites. These smaller satellite stations primarily distribute and collect instruments. The “dirty” instruments are initially cleaned in the satellites with pre-processing machines, but the thorough sterilization then occurs in the central sterilization area. Similarly, changes were made this summer to the third floor to facilitate the clean/dirty instrument exchange for the college’s largest clinic.

Instrument check-out, check-in, and movement to and from central sterilization is tracked by scanning in axiUm, a software program already employed for the college’s electronic patient health records. Instruments and cassettes are bar-coded with microdots as small as one-eighth an inch. When scanned, the software logs the maintenance of each instrument, details its usage and lifespan, and will indicate when service and inspections are due.

Meanwhile, the next day’s instruments can be prepared using a daily axiUm report that details the procedures scheduled. Not only does the report indicate which students will perform procedures, it also says which instruments are needed.

The next day, only the sterilized instruments necessary for a clinic’s scheduled procedures are sent to the clinic’s satellite. Students use their ID to access their instruments from the dispensary. It’s a much faster way than how students got instruments before, with a “receipt system” that required students to complete a handwritten card to ask for instruments required for a procedure.

“This ‘on-demand’ dispensary system improves efficiency and allows downsized dispensaries in the clinics, which, ultimately, makes more room for dental chairs,” says Dr. Stephen Griffin, associate professor and director of clinics.