Posted: October 13, 2016

If you’re having surgery or a procedure at Grand River Hospital, you can count on the care of people like Sharon Vassell to make sure your instruments are properly prepared.

Sharon works in GRH’s medical device reprocessing department, or MDRD. She’s among 26 employees who painstakingly dismantle, clean, disinfect, and re-assemble instruments for procedures.

Sharon and her colleagues have busy jobs. Each year, they prepare instruments for 9,500 surgical procedures, 2,800 minor outpatient visits, 7,800 endoscopic procedures, and more than 4,200 childbirth deliveries.

Basically, if you see an instrument in a blue wrap, green towel, or peel pack, an MDRD professional has tended to it. As a veteran employee of GRH, Sharon takes the responsibility of providing high-quality instruments for patient care with passion and dedication.

Sharon Vassell Portrait
Can you describe what it's like to work in MDRD?

It’s very challenging, it’s fast paced, there’s never a dull moment, always something new, a lot to retain.

We have great resources to go to find out how everything is taken apart and reassembled of each instrument set.

Is there a particular area of MDRD that you work in?

We do it all. There are different services within the operation room, such as orthopedics, gynecology, and plastic surgery just to name a few. We also provide instruments for all the clinics throughout the hospital such as outpatient procedures, endoscopy and emergency.

What happens when an instrument used in say a knee replacement goes through your department?

It’ll first come down to our decontamination room. We’ll separate it, scrub it, clean it and put it through our washer disinfecter.

Then it comes out on the clean side, it’ll be assembled and you’re checking to make sure the parts are clean. Each set can consist of several pans of instruments.

If we discover an instrument that is not cleaned properly, we will take the instrument back and scrub it again. We have specialized detergents (enzymes) to clean the instruments. If it has any debris on it, that could cause infection to the patient.

You don’t necessarily see patients, but your work is vitally important to them. What do you think of that?

We’re accountable for everything we do. We have to sign off on all the sets we put together. Therefore if there’s an error in a pan or a package, our initials are on the package so nursing staff and managers will follow up with us. We also work to CSA (Canadian Standards Association) standards.

What do you think about your responsibilities of caring for surgical instruments that ultimately touch patients?

It can be overwhelming when you’re first starting out, but you have a lot of resources… other peers within the department, peers at other hospitals or resource binders at each station with photos and a detailed write up as to how each set is assembled.

To work in MDRD all employees have to take a course to get certification (through one of several colleges such as Conestoga, Mohawk, Humber etc.)  There is also competency testing throughout the year to keep up with standards. We also have vendors come in to demonstrate and instruct us when new instruments are brought into the hospital.

What do you like about MDRD?

It’s always changing, there’s always something different. With all the different jobs that we do, we rotate from different jobs within our department so it’s not usually the same job every day. 

Sharon Vassell In Mdrd
Sharon is hard at work as instruments enter MDRD for cleaning and preparation.

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