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Some like it Hot: Water Temperature

Does water temperature make a difference? What does the instrument Instruction for Use say and what does that mean for your SPD?

water temperature hot

 

The PROCESS PROs topic this week combines clinical practice with process control. We’re talking about the temperature of your enzymatic solution in the decontamination sink. While some like it hot, others are realizing that the manufacturer’s instructions of old may have changed and we never knew it! Does water temperature make a difference in the sterilization process?

 

 

I’m a personal fan of soaking instruments and letting the natural cleaning action of water and enzymatic solution do their thing while I’m working on another instrument tray.  Water is an amazing cleaner. I’ve witnessed in my own kitchen as I soak my children’s plates with dried-on food that they “forgot” to wash!  Soaking instrument trays in enzymatic solution in decontamination prior to the manual processes of inspection, cleaning and then placing them in the washer is a common practice. However, whether water temperature makes a difference has recently been discussed in the field.

 

I seem to remember a time when enzymatic solution instructions included specific water temperature ranges for effective cleaning. Automated dosing systems came equipped with temperature gauges. Temperature strips were adhered to the sink walls, and staff would change water when it became cold.  Those days seem to be over – almost.

 

If you read most enzymatic solutions’ Instructions for Use (IFU) today, they either:

  • Avoid the temperature requirement, stating that their product works in any temperature
  • Recommend warm water
  • State the enzymatic efficacy improves with increased water temperature.

 

Here’s a PROCESS PRO Tip: if the IFU leaves the door open for interpretation or does not specify proper usage, you must create your own Policy and Procedure (or Standard Work) describing how your facility has decided to utilize the solution or product. Don’t leave the decision up to the staff; this results in variance to standard and uncontrolled processes. For enzymatic solutions, decide how long you will soak and what your expectations are for water temperature. If you set temperature limits, establish how you’re going to measure them.

 

You can also engage your staff in creating best practices and determining how best to utilize the enzymatic solution. Employee engagement in today’s marketplace is critical to maintaining a healthy environment and long-lasting employees!

 

So, while some like it hot, be sure you decide what your department’s standard is and then ensure compliance. Your staff and patients will thank you.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the PROCESS PROs by clicking the link at the top of this page. To read articles already posted, click HERE.

John Kimsey – National Director, Professional Services

With over 25 years of management and operational experience in healthcare, manufacturing and service, John Kimsey currently leads the STERIS Professional Services Group. His group is tasked with performing strategic studies and overseeing process improvement initiatives in healthcare organizations around the country in order to help ensure regulatory compliance, maximize operating efficiencies, and perform sterile processing with organizational goals and industry mandates in mind.