New Toi Ohomai Course to Improve Sterilising Technology Sector

Toi Ohomai is offering new courses in sterilising technology this year

Saturday, 22 May 0219

The coordinator of the Sterilising Services Unit at Rotorua Hospital says new courses offered by Toi Ohomai will improve the quality of sterilising practices across the sector.

Thelma Glasgow says she has two staff who will undertake the New Zealand Certificate in Sterilising Technology (Level 4) when the course begins at Toi Ohomai in early June.

People entering the industry do not need a qualification before commencing work, but Thelma says working in a sterilising services unit is a process-laden job that requires a thorough knowledge of the procedures as well as surgical utensils and their uses, so ensuring employees become fully qualified is crucial.

“It will mean that we have got a robust team with everyone with a certificate. Those teams that don’t have their certificates are having to learn by rote and that’s not always the best way because you have to know why you‘re doing things, not just that you have to do it a certain way.”

Thelma, who has more than 30 years’ experience as a registered nurse and has worked in surgery as well as community education, says after gaining her qualifications in sterilising technology she helped to get others to become certified, so she knows the benefits of her staff enrolling on the courses.

She says now her team are able to undertake the courses online with support from tutors based at Toi Ohomai’s Mokoia Campus in Rotorua, which provides them with easy access to their teachers and other knowledge.

“It’s very important that we know what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it, because if we stuff up here, it has ramifications for the surgery team and the patient.

“I’m really excited and the fact that the institute is right on our doorstep is a real bonus.”

The need for further regulation in the sector was highlighted in news stories following incidences where surgical equipment had not been fully sterilised and may have compromised patients’ health and safety. While the most prominent example was recorded in Hawkes Bay, other district health boards have also recorded incidences.

Open Polytech had previously provided a qualification relating to the industry. However, Toi Ohomai was asked to develop the new courses after the sector, through the New Zealand Sterile Services Association (NZSSA), lobbied the government to strengthen regulations in this area. Open Polytech will teach out its course and from this year anyone wanting to study sterilising technology will have to do so through Toi Ohomai.

Toi Ohomai Programme Manager Health Maria Ngawati says NZSSA is supportive of the industry to be better regulated because it’s an important part of the healthcare sector and addresses a very specific skill set that’s in high demand. 

“In these courses participants will first gain knowledge of the technologies and processes and, once they have progressed, they can take the next step up to become a specialist in their field.”

The Level 4 certificate is part of a new suite of courses focussing on sterilising technology for various roles in industry. The Level 5 diploma allows sterilising technicians to step into a leadership role, while the Level 3 certificate is an ideal course for anyone working in a smaller business such as a beauty spa, tattoo and body piercing studio, or dental or veterinary clinic that uses reusable medical devices requiring sterilisation. 

The Level 4 and 5 courses start in June and all three levels will be offered online, making them more accessible to working professionals wanting to upskill.