By Makenzie McNeill

UNM Hospital’s Critical Care Tower Placing Safety First with Innovative Sterilization

Tucked away and hidden from view in most healthcare facilities is the Sterile Processing Department (SPD), an indispensable service that is vital to a patient’s safety.

That’s why the University of New Mexico Hospital’s new critical care tower (CCT) will include an expanded SPD on level 2.

“The larger SPD in the tower will provide efficient workflow that will improve our processes dramatically,” said Shantel Berwald, director of SPD at UNM Hospital. “I am really looking forward to this new, fresh environment.”

SPD is where all surgical instrumentation and medical equipment are thoroughly cleaned after use in an operating room or patient care area.

After a rigorous disinfecting and inspection process, the sterilized tools are packaged and prepared for upcoming procedures throughout the hospital.

Although SPD staff normally do not have contact with patients, they play a vital role in preventing infection and keeping patients safe. 

The larger SPD in the tower will provide efficient workflow that will improve our processes dramatically.
Shantel Berwald

The current SPD at UNM Hospital has experienced a shortage of space, which constrains workflow.

Additionally, because the SPD is not conveniently located near its areas of service, staff must travel several minutes to transport clean materials to their destinations. 

The layout of the CCT will directly address and amend these inefficiencies.

The new state-of-the-art SPD will sit right below the new surgical suite located on level 3. A series of dedicated elevators will connect the SPD to the ORs above.

All case carts – sealed packages of sterilized instruments – will be assembled in the SPD and sent to the ORs through a dedicated elevator. After surgeries or procedures are complete, used equipment will be sent back downstairs through another elevator to the decontamination area.

Moreover, the SPD will be twice the size of its present space, which will allow for better throughput and will provide a better ergonomic working environment for staff.

Berwald is optimistic that this new innovative setup will maximize productivity and keep procedures running in an orderly fashion.

“The layout of the new SPD will keep the ORs running in a very efficient way,” she said. “This will make sure that our staff have everything they need in a timely manner. Also, having more space means that we have the opportunity to grow in the future.”

Every medical device begins and ends in SPD, a meticulous process that protects patients and keeps hospital operations running smoothly.

The expanded SPD in the tower will ensure that all instrumentation will be cleaned, prepped, and ready for the next procedure in the most efficient manner possible.

To learn more about the hospital expansion, visit

Categories: UNM Hospital