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Standard Work This!

How do we implement and sustain Standard Work?

For this installment of Lean CS, let’s talk about Standard Work. Standardizing how things are done should be an automatic objective for every Sterile Processing Department; However, you’d be surprised how many times I hear staff discussing “How I Do It” instead of “How We Do It.”


So, what is Standard Work and how do we implement and sustain it in our Sterile Processing Departments? Standard Work represents the most efficient method, tools, and pace that an activity or process is performed. It is the current best practice and should meet Customer and operational requirements.


I’ve found the following tips have been successful in implementing Standard Work:

  •  Define Standards for both Processes and Activities.  Process map how a dirty case cart and instruments should flow through decontamination to create Standard Work for the process. Then define the specific methods to follow for each task in order to efficiently process dirty items in decontamination.  For example, define how to manually prep a tray at the sink for automated washing to create Standard work for the activity.

  • Engage your staff in creating the process and activity standards while simultaneously teaching them AAMI standards and other best practices they should be aware of.  Staff engagement is critical in creating an atmosphere of ownership and participation in improving the work environment.

  • Create clear and easy to understand Standard Work documents to be used as training material for both new hires and annual review training and competency. In addition to the written Standard Work, determine how best to present the Standard Work through visual aids or reminders at the point of work. Better yet, incorporate them into the electronic instrument tracking system.

  • Ensure sustainability by creating Leadership Routines that require Supervisors or other leadership positions to perform rounds and formal observations. This helps to ensure staff is following and understand the Standard Work. I’ve found that without leadership following-up on a consistent basis, staff begins to vary from the Standard Work. Before you know it, staff members are back to “Doing it Their Way.” Think of variation from Standard Work as weeds growing in your garden, and Supervisor follow-up as the gardener pulling the weeds. The more often the gardener pulls the weeds, the less weeds you’ll have.

Let’s standardize our operations to ensure consistency, quality, productivity, and staff satisfaction. Don’t forget to be a gardener and pull the weeds occasionally.

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.