Saturday, October 25, 2014

why is Suzanne working as a sterile tech?

Good news everyone!  I have a job here in Australia!

I'm working at a hospital here in Brisbane called St Andrews War Memorial, in their Central Service/Sterilisation Department.

 SO thankful to have employment for these short months before we go to France at the end of the year.

 Why is Suzanne working as a sterile tech?
Two reasons:

I don't have my Australian nursing license yet.  I've submitted all the required documentation, and (as of August) my application is under review.  It can take many months to get an answer.  So, at the moment, I can't work as an RN here.

reason number 2 (and this is the main reason)  is kind of a long story.

It starts in March 2014 when I was still working on the ship in the Republic of Congo, with a coffee date with my friend Christina.  I knew Christina was running a special teaching program, and I asked her to tell me more about it over coffee.

Christina is a sterile technician (someone who cleans and manages the care of the instruments used  in the operating room), and at home in Canada, Christina is a classroom instructor in sterile processing.

 After working with Mercy Ships, and seeing the need for improved sterilization practices West African hospitals, Christina founded the organization Sterile Processing Education and Charitable Trust (  The goal of SPECT is to improve practices in West Africa through teaching and evaluation in local hospitals.

At our coffee date I loved hearing about Christina's work, and I was thrilled when she invited me to come on a hospital assessment with her the next day. I got a first hand look at what sterilization looks like in West Africa.  And what I saw made me realize that when a surgeon begins an operation in West Africa, it is very unlikely that the instruments are clean.

This is what sterile processing looks like in the countries we visit with the ship:
 (these were taken by Christina in a variety of West African hospitals, they give a good general idea of the challenges in many facilities)

The sterile processing areas are often dirty and disorganised, and create a very unsafe working environment

Lack of knowledge in microbiology and lack of training leads to improper use of equipment 

Dirty and clean instruments are often mixed together in the same area 

and staff are not provided with adequate cleaning products or protective equipment.

Christina also invited me to attend a class she was teaching to employees of a local public hospital in Pointe-Noire, and I loved every minute of it!  I ended up helping her out over the next couple months. Mostly I helped set up and attended classes whenever I could, and after she went home to Canada I conducted follow up visits at each Pointe-Noire hospital which had received the training.

Here are a few photos from classtime....

here, Christina is teaching proper hand washing techniques...

and showing employees how to properly use some of the equipment they already had in their hospital

here's me helping out with snack break...

and a group photo of the whole class

Throughout this season, I became convinced that teaching is desperately needed in this area. So convinced, that when I returned to the states I spent the months of May and June preparing and studying to be a sterile technician.  Not because I want a career change, but because I think this is such valuable knowledge to have.  I passed the exam, and completed an internship at a surgery center in my home town.  

So for now, the deal is that I have passed this exam, and to keep my  license I need 400 hours in sterilizing before the end of December.  The whole idea is that down the road I will be equipped to continue assisting hospitals with this specialty, and continue partnering with SPECT whenever possible.   Eventually, I'd love to take a job as an operating room nurse, so the things I'm learning as a sterile tech are very applicable- right now I am really enjoying learning to identify all sorts of instruments.

So, that is why I am working as a sterile tech.  Nick and I are so thankful for the way God provides for all our needs, and this job is one of the many ways we see God opening the doors for us.

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