Developing Leadership Skills for SPD Managers

While every healthcare organization has countless moving parts, the Sterile Processing Department (SPD) is vital to its success. Ensuring all equipment and tools are safe for use in an efficient manner requires vigilance, continuing education, and above all, stellar leadership. Undoubtedly, SPD Managers have a massive weight on their shoulders — after all, if tools are unusable, the rest of the departments suffer or become subject to other liabilities. 

Here are some ways your healthcare organization can develop leadership skills for SPD Managers to stay efficient and effective.

How to Develop SPD Manager Leadership Skills

Education to Foster Innovation

One of the most crucial aspects of SPD managerial success is continuing education and new training opportunities. By encouraging SPD leaders to attend seminars, networking events, and continuing education programs, you foster an environment that inspires learning from peers and expands on existing techniques. Such innovation can go a long way in improving everyday procedures.

For example, most organizations utilize hundreds, if not thousands, of tool types that require varying sterilization and packaging processes. Staying on top of these processes and improving them, helps the entire organization remain efficient and ahead of the competition.

Thinking outside the box can streamline the mundane — think about where your organization could improve.

Implementing Sponsoring and Mentoring Programs

Finding leadership talent can be a challenge in the first place, but the real tragedy is having the proper people and underutilizing them. A good leader will always be hungry for more knowledge and will figure out ways to elevate their department constantly. But they can’t act on what they don’t know, which is why implementing a formal mentorship or sponsorship program provides significant advantages.

While a mentor will help aspiring leaders by taking on an advisory role, a sponsor can take an active hand in elevating their protege up the organizational ladder. While there are some major differences between mentorship and sponsorship, each is useful in their own right and are necessary to create quality leadership from within. 

It’s no secret that SPD comes with a tremendous amount of know-how. Someone who has been in a leadership position before can give the next generation a massive leg up when it comes to developing leadership skills — especially ones that may be unique to the organization.

Nurturing a Unified Vision

Another crucial aspect of developing leadership within SPD is ensuring a stated, unified vision that all potential candidates understand. SPD, in general, is very specialized and many aspects of the job are organization-specific. This is why finding leadership from within can be so beneficial:

  • The candidate has a deeper understanding of efficiencies and pain points
  • Mentors and sponsors can ignite further hunger for upward mobility and innovation
  • Potential leaders understand the inner workings of the organization and can more easily reconcile their personal goals with those of the larger organization

This last point is crucial. While any new (or aspiring) leader is bound to ask, “why is it done this way?” in an effort to improve processes, it is essential that they ask such questions while understanding that potential solutions must align with holistic organizational goals. For instance, the SPD Manager will have a diverse set of duties, often involving relationship management between vendors, OR leaders, C-level executives, and more. This can often be a delicate political balance of which incoming leaders should be aware. SPD leaders need to not only advocate for the advancement of their department, but also share a unified vision with other departments to reach organizational goals.

Such relationship management also applies within the SPD on a more granular level. Leadership must act as a unifying force for all SPD staff to better advocate for positive changes and eliminate redundancies.  Here are a few ways to accomplish this:

  • Promote transparency with SPD staff regarding a departmental roadmap, potential changes, etc.
  • Make staff feel valued by encouraging feedback and suggestions to improve technical processes
  • Stay in constant communication with staff to strengthen trust in leadership and keep a unified front

Qualities of an Effective SPD Manager

While specific duties can depend on the organization, most SPD Managers have a trifecta of responsibilities: technical know-how, managing department staff, and being involved in high-level company politics. Any three of these could be a job in their own right, but an effective  SPD Manager juggles all three by:

  • Being familiar with organizational and departmental procedures as well as other regulatory standards (e.g. AAMI and AORN standards)
  • Understanding technology trends and staying in the know about how new tools can be implemented
  • Foreseeing how new regulations can affect their department
  • Having experience with conflict resolution and managing interpersonal relationships
  • Remaining calm and collected while under pressure
  • Having strong communication skills when talking to C-level executives, surgeons, OR staff, and SPD staff
  • Being inspirational and motivating their staff to share a unified vision of the department and organization

Sullivan Healthcare Consulting is Your Honest Broker

Sullivan’s Sterile Processing Consulting helps organizations just like yours improve workflow, minimize instrument loss, optimize technology support, and improve leadership by working closely with OR leaders. As a neutral third party, we act as an honest broker on your behalf — your success is our success. 


Contact us today to learn how we can reduce waste and increase the operational performance of your SPD and all perioperative services.

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