Ken’s Take on the World

On Guns and Sterilizers
April 13, 2013, 3:23 am
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This past week has seen a flurry of activity in our nation’s capitol regarding the issue of gun safety.  Much of the debate has surrounded the topic of background checks for would-be purchasers and training for anyone who would like to purchase a firearm.  Listening to proponents of stricter laws and opponents of laws they believe would make it more difficult to own or possess a gun, I had a couple of thoughts.  Guns, whether you like them or not, are intentionally designed to do one thing, and, one thing only.  They are designed to kill.  Whether you are a police officer or a hunter or someone seeking to defend his or her home and loved ones, a gun serves only one functional purpose. 


There is only one other device that has, as its sole function, the ability to kill living things.  It is, in fact, far more lethal than any firearm ever invented.  Each day, at work, I operate several of these devices.  The device I am referring to, of course, is the sterilizer.  This has made me consider the current debate in Washington DC and how it is so difficult for our members in Congress to recognize that inherently dangerous objects should only be handled by individuals who are properly trained and able to handle the responsibility involved with operating that device.


There are no federal or state laws regulating the operation of sterilizers.  However, the sterilizer itself is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as are the methods the sterilizer manufacturer claims are adequate to kill things, in the case of a Central Sterile Processing Department, we are referring to microorganisms.  The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) establishes minimum qualifications for individuals who operate sterilizers.  The sale of sterilizers is tightly restricted because, when all is said and done, it is a technology that is designed to be lethal whether it is handled properly (or improperly).


An individual who operates sterilizers, whether in the Central Services Department, the Operating Room or at a Doctor’s office must be educated on the proper operation of the equipment.  You cannot hire someone off of the street tell them to push a certain button and leave them unsupervised with an expectation that you are providing safe patient care.  A person who hires into a Central Services Department, receives this education during the orientation process.  College programs provide this education through a combination of classroom and clinical practice.  A sterilizer operator must be aware of how the sterilizer is designed to operate and how to document if the sterilizer did operate in the way it was supposed to.  Documentation of the use and operation of sterilizers is a legal and regulatory requirement. 


As our elected leaders debate the pros and cons of gun regulation, perhaps, they should take time to see what is required to protect and serve our patients when we use lethal force!


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