How to Know If Your Machines are Helping Or Hurting

Sterile Processing is a field highly dependent on its workforce. However, there are numerous machines we rely on each day to assist us with the essential work we do. How to know if your machines are helping or hurting? Daily validation and monitoring of this equipment give us the confidence to know that we have done everything possible to protect patients from hospital-acquired infections. The Bowie-Dick Test Pack was first described in 1963 by Dr. John Herbertson Bowie and Mr. James Dick. Ever since Bowie-Dick style test packs have been used to monitor the capability of pre-vacuum sterilizers to remove air from its chamber each day.

Evolution of Bowie-Dick Test Packs

Initially, Bowie-Dick Tests required assembling a test pack of 29-36 huckaback-type towels, each folded and stacked to a height of 10-11 inches, and a sheet of paper with sterilization indicator tape, all placed inside of a rigid container. The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) described the first standardized Bowie-Dick Test Pack in the early 1980s. Propper Manufacturing Company introduced Bowie-Dick Test Pack: Once-A-Day® Test-Pak™, the first disposable test pack, in 1982. After 40 years, disposable Bowie-Dick Test Packs continue to be the best practice for sterile processing departments worldwide.

Decon Machinery

Over the past decade, cleaning monitoring has brought a reminder of the value of validating machinery to the forefront of our minds. For many years, the standard practice for cleaning equipment was visual evaluation; unfortunately, many studies proved insufficient. With that understanding, we have many products available to confirm the effectiveness of washer-disinfectors and ultrasonic baths, which are essential to your cleaning efficacy protocol.

How have your facilities’ validation protocols changed over the past decade? What policies do you have to ensure your machines are helping and not hurting?