MGEU - Manitoba Government and General Employees Union

Korina Cullen: Certified Medical Device Reprocessing Technician (CMDRT) - Local 421, Prairie Mountain Health Care Support Services


“We are behind the scenes of every single surgery.”

Arthroscopic sets. Ultrasonic baths. Chemical Indicators (CI) vs. Bio Indicators (BI).

These are terms used every day in a Medical Device Reprocessing unit. And though most of us will never have to understand what this lingo means, we should pay attention to what goes on there -- because MDR Techs work shifts around the clock to ensure instruments used in Manitoba hospitals are sterile, preventing post-op infection and facility-wide outbreaks. 

“We are behind the scenes of every single surgery,” says Korina Cullen, who's worked as an MDR at the Brandon Health Centre since 2008. “Each day, we prepare 'case carts' for surgeons based on their operation schedule, scanning each instrument build and creating a list of the contents of each cart. That way, we can track exactly what comes back to us post-up.”

Following a surgery, these carts of instruments are covered in shrouds and immediately transported into a dedicated elevator straight to MDR, where they are dismantled and inspected to ensure nothing is missing or damaged.

The sterilization journey for a used medical instrument is long and arduous. After a manual pre-cleaning, instruments go into an ultrasonic bath where high frequency sound waves create mechanical vibrations, a process known as cavitation. The cavitation allows bubbles to form and get into lockbox and hinged instruments' crevasse where a brush cannot reach.

MDR Techs then do a visual inspection prior to loading the instruments into the Washer Disinfector. Instruments are unloaded from manifolds into a designated area for technicians to inspect, sort and assemble the instruments into their designated pans.

Each pan is tracked in the Quality Management System (QMS) to their assigned Hivac Sterilizer for the sterilization process, followed by a series of chemical and biological testing to confirm sterility. If they don’t pass a test, the process starts all over again.

Given the complexity, and the stakes, of the job, it's not surprising MDR Technicians are being encouraged to get their certification.

“The employer is now supporting us to keep up with our certification and get us the training we need with new instruments and equipment,” Cullen said.

As someone who started her health care career as a Surgical Aide, Cullen says she has a first-hand appreciation for what surgeons and nurses are up against in the O.R.

“I’m not in that room with them anymore, but my role in their success is every bit as critical.”


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