When & How Should Medical Equipment Be Sterilised?

Medical equipment is a critical part of providing quality healthcare. However, it's important to ensure that this equipment is sterilised correctly to protect patients from potential infection. In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at the importance of sterilising medical equipment, what’s used to sterilise medical equipment, and most importantly, how to sterilise medical equipment. 

Why is sterilising medical equipment important?

Sterilising medical equipment is important because it destroys bacteria and other organisms that can cause infection. It also eliminates any traces of dirt or dust that might be on the equipment.

The consequences of not correctly sterilising medical equipment can be severe. For example, if a patient is given a blood transfusion that has not been properly sterilised, they may develop a life-threatening infection. Additionally, if surgical instruments are not properly sterilised, patients may suffer from serious infections or other complications as a result of the surgery.

What equipment needs to be sterilised?

Before exploring the ins and outs of sterilisation, it’s important first to determine which equipment should be sterilised and which shouldn’t. The general rule of thumb is that single-use equipment is the only exception, but more on that later.

NSW Health clearly outlines the compliance requirements of the Public Health Regulation 2012. 

  • Cuticles  
  • Razor scrapers
  • Microdermabrasion heads
  • Metal nail files
  • Dermarollers

When is sterilisation inappropriate?

Sterilising medical equipment is the most important practice for any practitioner. You simply can’t start any procedure without reliably safe equipment. Having said that, there are times when it is unnecessary — to be clear, this is only for items that never require it. 

Whenever an item isn’t intended for reuse — like a single-use needle — it isn’t necessary to sterilise it. 

How to sterilise medical equipment

When sterilising medical equipment, it’s important to remember several steps before actually using a TGA-approved steriliser. Generally speaking, this can be broken down into six key steps.

1. Preparation

The first step is to wear appropriate personal protective equipment — gloves, apron, mark and even a hair net if necessary. Gather all the medical equipment that needs sterilisation and place it in a bowl or container for clear organisation. You can then move them over to your dedicated cleaning area. 

2. Initial cleaning

Prepare a clean sink with some warm water — avoid hot water since it can cause some matter like blood to adhere to certain surfaces. You should then use a cleaning solution that’s recommended by the manufacturer of the medical equipment that you’re cleaning. It may be a hassle not to have a strictly uniform solution, but safety is always the top priority. Using a medical-grade brush, scrub away any matter underwater — this is the safest way to perform a clean because friction in the air may cause contamination. Once you are confident that you’ve done a thorough clean, you can move the equipment on to the next phase. 

3. Use a heavy-duty cleaning machine if appropriate

Using an ultrasonic cleaner, thoroughly clean your equipment once more. To ensure your cleaner is working as intended, you can perform a foil test. This involves dangling a long piece of aluminium foil into the cleaner while it’s running. After a minute, taking out the foil should reveal tiny holes in the submerged area. This means your cleaner is working as intended. 

4. Neatly pack away items for drying

Dry your equipment with a drying cabinet or a medical-grade cloth. This is an important step, as improper drying will require you to restart the whole process. 

5. Use an autoclave 

First, pack all the necessary equipment into separate pouches that come with your steriliser. The benchtop steriliser — known as an autoclave — uses steam to clean any equipment properly. Insert the pouches into the autoclave and wait for it to finish. 

6. Store correctly for future use

Once done, you can start properly packing away the equipment and labelling them for future use. It’s recommended that you note down the cleaning completion time and date for full transparency. 

If you suspect your medical equipment hasn’t been sterilised properly, do not use it at any point! Let your colleagues know and immediately schedule the equipment to be sterilised properly before use. 

eNurse — proud to present a guide for sterilising medical equipment

The purpose of sterilisation is to destroy all forms of life, including spores, on a surface or in an object. This is important for medical equipment because it helps prevent infection spread. Sterilisation also helps to ensure that any equipment used in a medical procedure is clean and free from contamination. To reiterate, it’s essential that you start the cleaning and sterilisation process before the equipment is used and after any use. Any equipment that will have multiple uses must be cleaned in this way by law. 

We hope this article has helped show you how to sterilise medical equipment. If you have any other questions or need help deciding which sterilisation method is best for your medical equipment, please get in with customer service — we would be happy to help. Be sure also to take a look at our entire range of nursing products and other articles from our helpful and informative blog for more from eNurse!

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