by Weston “Hank” Balch, CRCST,CIS, CHL
As the certification culture continues to gain traction across the Sterile Processing industry, retention of high performing technicians is becoming more and more difficult. Hospital staffing agencies are paying a premium for experienced and credentialed SPD techs, as are third-party vendors who provide contracted sterile processing services for hospitals across the country. And let’s not forget about the hospital down the road who always seems to be paying $2 more per hour than your facility.
In this competitive context, how can departmental leaders keep their best and brightest from jumping ship? There are at least three strategies that I’ve found successful to help keep your SPD aces in their places:

  1. Hire with Retention In Mind

Believe it or not, retention starts with the very first interview. Make it a point to ask the applicant how long they would intend to stay with the organization if offered the position. Be transparent about what your desired commitment from them would be, and pay close attention to the reasons they give for leaving previous positions. These answers can help distinguish drifters from long-timers, and save you from making a short-term mistake.
At the same time, be prepared to answer the unspoken question your applicants will have: “What’s in it for me?” If your only answer is “a job,” you need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to make your shop a place where technicians want to be.

  1. Develop and Grow Your Team

There are countless human resource articles out there that argue how little compensation has to do with why employees ultimately decide to leave an organization. The number one reason these studies give? Bad managers. So how do you keep your technicians from becoming just another HR statistic?
Great managers commit to developing and growing their employees. So make it your mission to give your team every opportunity possible to excel in industry knowledge, gain experience and earn credentials. You may not be able to beat the pay of a competitor, but chances are good that your competitors aren’t teaching their technicians how to create staffing schedules, write competitive resumes and interview persuasively. In short, be the kind of boss you wish you had. Your team will notice, and they will be much more likely to stay.

  1. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Vision

Apart from hiring right and developing your people, the most powerful retention tool available to you is a clear, palpable, overarching vision for your department. This is not the same thing as a cold, detached, mini-paragraph posted on your office wall talking about putting “patients first” and CS being the “heart of the hospital.” That’s all well and fine, but vision statements rarely move mountains — vision statesmen do.
If it seems like your department has a revolving door of names and faces on the frontline, it may be a sign that the CS leader is not compellingly communicating and incarnating the vision to the people. Doing this well has less to do with giving memorable speeches at staff meetings than it does with helping your people connect the mundane duties of their jobs with the marvelous power they have to protect the patients in their care.
A department that hires with retention in mind, commits to developing their team, and has a compelling vision for Sterile Processing excellence is the kind of department where great technicians will settle in for the long haul.