By Sara Vinson, MBA, CRCST

Whether personal or professional, goal setting is a process most people follow without even knowing it. Take planning a vacation for example. When planning a vacation, one usually follows a sequence of steps to make it happen. They choose a destination, determine how much money to spend, and plan a time to go. If these steps are followed, then more than likely a vacation will occur in their future. Seems pretty straight forward, right? Well, what happens if they can’t choose a destination or don’t have enough money to pay for their dream trip? They’re probably going to have a pretty boring summer.


Being specific and realistic when setting goals (even when planning a vacation), is key to accomplishing them. Be SMART when setting goals! – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Goal setting can help develop a vision for the future. When we don’t have a clear idea about what we are aiming for, we’ll never know if we have actually reached it.

Setting individual and team goals follow the same principles. What specifically are you trying to achieve? How will you track your progress? Is it realistic? Why is it important to you? And when should it be completed? These are all questions to answer when setting goals.

In addition to being SMART, documenting and sharing goals can also be very helpful. Documenting goals makes them tangible and more than just an idea in your mind. Sharing goals with others helps to develop accountability.

SMART Goals in Sterile Processing

Here are a couple examples of how setting SMART goals help improve your personal performance or the performance of your team.

Personal Goal Example: To obtain my CRCST certification by June 30th through completing weekly studying targets and taking practice exams.

Specific – This goal is very specific on the what, when, and how it will be achieved.

Measurable – This goal can be measured by setting weekly targets (i.e. to read 1 chapter a week and complete the study guide questions). The goal is ultimately measured by successfully passing the exam.

Achievable – The weekly targets for studying are realistic and broken out into smaller goals to help set a pace for completion.

Relevant – Becoming certified is relevant and desirable to Sterile Processing Professionals. Often times becoming certified comes with an increase in compensation.

Timely – By setting a completion date of June 30th, it helps create a since of urgency and keep you on track.

Team Goal Example: To reduce total missing instruments from 4% to 2% by end of Q3 through improving backup stock inventory par levels and monitoring weekly reports.

Specific – This goal specifically defines the what, when, and how to achieve it.

Measurable – This goal will be measured through the weekly reports ran and comparing week over week missing instrument rates. It can also be measured by the completion of improved par levels.

Achievable – While zero would be an ideal rate for missing instruments, setting an incremental improvement is more realistic and achievable. Taking in consideration the timing, giving 6 months to show a reduction is achievable.

Relevant – Having complete sets is a customer expectation and very relevant to Sterile Processing Departments.

Timely – Again, setting incremental targets within a narrow timeframe help to keep you focused and motivated to continue striving for improvement.

Being intentional and applying the “SMART” concept will help you crush your goals! And, don’t forget to celebrate your success before you set out to achieve the next goal.