NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain (NNS) -- Although surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists are often the more visible providers of safe surgical care, sterile processing technicians also perform critical functions in infection control and the delivery of excellent patient care.
Effective sterile processing is crucial for hospitals to reduce infections and provide exceptional patient care, and U.S. Naval Hospital Rota (USNHR) has one of the best and brightest working within their walls.
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (HM1) Hoa Ho is the acting division officer for the hospital's Sterile Processing Department (SPD) and she ensures that USNHR is always meeting the ever-changing standards in the world of medicine.
While preparing for a Medical Inspector General Inspection and Joint Commission Survey, it was identified that there were some areas that could be improved upon and Ho went above and beyond her role as an HM1 and made it her duty to enhance the department and be fully prepared for any inspection.
"Healthcare practices keep evolving," said Ho. "I want and need to keep up with it because it intrigues me."
Because of her efforts to keep USNHR responsive of the constant changes, her chain of command nominated her for International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM) Technician Achievement Award, which recognizes a technician who has made significant improvements in the function and operation of their department.
"I nominated HM1 Ho because she really turned around the Sterile Processing Department," said Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Gutierrez, USNHR Perioperative Services department head. "She went above and beyond her position as a first class petty officer and took on a role like division officer."
Ho utilized knowledge from previous inspections and the latest Joint Commission manuals for best practices in the sterile processing area, to create a multi-phase plan to meet and exceed current standards. She spent days, nights and weekends researching and single-handedly creating 46 standard operating procedures from scratch. She created SPD training manuals and individually trained her Sailors to ensure they were meeting or exceeding the standards, all while overhauling the hospital's quality control standards.
Being more than qualified for the award, Ho was notified a short time later by her department head that she won. She was the IAHCSMM Technician of the Year!
"It was very unexpected," said Ho. "I had forgotten that my chain of [command] nominated me, and when they told me that I was selected, I was blown away. It was an honor just to be nominated, but being selected though is like winning the jackpot."
The Chicago native doesn't work as hard as she does for the awards or accolades. She does it because she enjoys her profession and thinks it's incomparable.
"We're taking care of patients without taking care of them physically," Ho said. "Sterilizing the area and equipment for them is really important."
A sterile processing technician cleans and sterilizes used surgical instruments and other medical supplies so they can be safely redistributed and reused on future patients. It's crucial in preventing infections and reducing costs. The hospital also provides this service to our forward deployed naval forces (FDNF) ships and other deployed units in or around Naval Station Rota.
Once equipment is used, it is delivered to a decontamination area where it is intricately washed and decontaminated by hand and then by what is essentially a "glorified dishwasher." From there it is received in the assembly and packaging area and prepared for sterilization, issue, and then ultimately to delivery or storage.
One of the most remarkable thing about Ho's accomplishment is that she did it while never wavering from her primary duty as the leading petty officer for the Surgical Services Department.
"Work can be challenging because the lack of manpower. That explains why I'm wearing two separate hats; surgical services and sterile processing," said Ho. "It's worth it though because of my Sailors. I get to watch them grow as a tech and become better providers to patients."
Ho has been in the Navy for more than 12 years and when she isn't working, she can be found doing something active like playing and watching sports or rooting for 'da Bears during the NFL season.
Currently, Ho is on the fence deciding whether to stay Navy or try the civilian world. Regardless of her decision, it is clear that she is built to excel in any environment she finds herself in.
"If I stay Navy, I would like to become an officer. If I don't stay in the Navy, I'd like to go work for one of the associations that put healthcare standards in place," she said. "Healthcare practices keep evolving and I want to keep up with it because I enjoy it."
Gutierrez maked it clear that HM1 Ho is a valuable piece of what makes USNHR work.
"She is a dedicated, loyal, hard-working mentor for this staff. She is always motivated and looking to not just improve herself, but also the Sailors around her. She's constantly providing training and takes a real strong vested interest in everyone's career and making sure they are on the right path."
Naval Station Rota enables and supports operations of U.S. and allied forces and provides quality services in support of the fleet, fighter and family for Commander, Navy Installations Command in Navy Region Europe/Africa/Southwest Asia.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from Naval Station Rota, Spain, visit www.navy.mil/local/rota/.