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Cleaned, disinfected, or Sterilized? Its All good!

June 4th, 2019 | Patient Centered Medical Home Blog

Cleaned, Disinfected, or Sterilized?  It’s All Good!

How many of you reading this has sat in an exam room waiting for your provider to come in?  While you’re waiting, what do you do to pass the time?  If you’re anything like me, you probably start looking all around the room; taking it all in.

You read the poster explaining all the different body parts or some condition. Then your eyes move onto the next item on the wall.  It’s a painting and you let your gaze rest here a little longer. Perhaps you experience a quick daydream of being in that boat in the painting. Before long your eyes have thoroughly investigated all the items in the room.  Despite this, you continue to search for something not yet seen.  When you can’t find anything new to visually take in, your mind naturally begins to wander.

You might even start wondering about the cleanliness of things.  After all, you did just pass someone in the hall who was coughing pretty badly.  Aren’t health care clinics supposed to be a sterile environment?  With all these germ ridden people coming in, how can that be?  Well, if you understand the difference between things being cleaned, disinfected and sterilized, that wouldn’t even be a thought in your mind.

Medical facilities employ many Central Supply personnel.  We are the behind the scenes folks who clean, disinfect or sterilize everything in the clinic.  You can rest assured that no matter where you are in the clinic, that area has been disinfected millions of times and it remains clean.  What exactly does that mean?

As a patient,   I personally was skeptical about the cleanliness of a medical facility.  Call me a germaphobe if you want, but that was prior to working in Central Supply.  I’m now able to differentiate between what it really means when something has been cleaned, disinfected or sterilized.  To put your mind at ease and in case you too have been wondering, I will briefly define these terms.

  • Cleaned means the item or element has had any surface contaminants removed and is safe to be touched.
  • Disinfected means the item has been cleaned with a product that is designed to kill most microorganisms such as vegetative bacteria and some viruses and fungi.
  • Sterilized means the item has undergone a chemical process to eliminate all forms of microorganisms and can safely penetrate the body without the risk of transferring infection. Items that have been sterilized are typically found in sealed packages or wrapped in a special surgical paper.

Now that I understand these differences, I feel a lot more at ease when visiting my health care provider and I hope you do too. 

By Kim Hoehne

Central Supply