What Does a Sterile Processing Technician Do? (Plus Salary)
A sterile processing technician plays an important role in indirectly providing patient care. Sterile processing technicians carefully sterilize each medical instrument and piece of equipment to ensure the safety of patients and medical staff. If you're interested in a career as a sterile processing technician, it's beneficial to learn more about this position.
In this article, we discuss what a sterile processing technician does, what education and training requirements they fulfill, what certifications they can pursue, how much they earn and what the traits they need for their role.
What is a sterile processing technician?
A sterile processing technician, or central service technician, is a health care professional who prepares, installs, assembles, cleans and sterilizes all the health care and laboratory equipment used in medical exams, surgeries and other clinical procedures. They ensure strict adherence to sterilization processes and assure that instruments, equipment and supplies are safe for reuse across patients on a daily basis. They play an integral role in ensuring the success of surgeries. Sterile processing technicians usually work in clinics, hospitals, doctors' offices and other settings that use medical equipment.
Related: Sterile Processing Technician
What does a sterile processing technician do?
A sterile processing technician regularly performs several duties, including:
Preparing and delivering clean and sterilized instruments and equipment necessary for medical examinations, surgeries, medical carts and clinical procedures
Sterilizing, wrapping, organizing and preparing medical equipment and surgical instruments into instrument trays for use during clinical procedures
Laying out surgical gloves and gowns before each medical procedure
Collecting and manually cleaning used and contaminated medical equipment, supplies and instruments for sorting and decontamination
Preparing and packing decontaminated medical tools and supplies for sterilization
Operating and monitoring sterilization equipment
Examining supplies meticulously to ensure their cleanliness
Checking and reporting any problems or issues with the sterilization equipment to surgeons or supervisors and requesting replacements
Maintaining records of sterilization procedures, equipment maintenance, sterilized items and supplies
Reordering medical and surgical supplies, controlling the inventory and checking expiration dates of products
Removing medical waste and disposing of them appropriately
Requirements for sterile processing technicians
Employers typically require prospective sterile processing technicians to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent and some on-the-job training, which teaches them various sterilization techniques and other duties. Some employers require you to complete a sterile processing program, which is usually available online and may provide you with a career diploma as a sterile technician. Some sterile processing programs require about 42 hours of in-hospital and online training. Other programs can take about four months to complete, though they may allow you up to a year to finish them.
Sterile processing technicians learn the most effective ways to clean, sterilize, store and inspect medical instruments and equipment before and after surgery. Sterile processing programs can prepare you for a career and professional certification in sterile processing and distribution. These programs may include courses in areas such as:
Storage and distribution
Certifications for sterile processing technicians
Pursuing a professional certification might help improve your chances of getting a job. There are several professional certifications available for sterile processing technicians. These include:
There are several ways to become eligible for a Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) credential. These include:
Working in a sterile processing technician-related field for one year
Taking the central service sterile processing technician program
Attending an allied health program relevant to sterile processing
Working as a sterile processing technician for about six months or working for one year in sterile processing sales or services
To verify your eligibility, the CBSPD may ask you to provide proof of your training program completion or work experience. To take the CBSPD certification examination, you pay an exam fee. You can take the exam at a testing center, where you have two hours to complete 100 questions spanning various subtopics, such as ethics, sterilization, handling of instruments and disinfection procedures.
The CBSPD certification is valid for five years, and recertification is necessary. There's a fee for recertification, and qualification works on a point system, meaning you receive points for tasks like completing a continuing education course or taking full-time employment.
The Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) credential from the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Material Management (IAHCSMM) is ideal for entry-level and existing technicians who possess the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to provide competent services as a central service technician. To earn certification through the IAHCSMM, it's necessary to become a member of the organization. As a member, you receive access to IAHCSMM training, and completing the program might increase your chances of passing the certification exam.
When studying for the exam, it's important to ensure your materials cover subjects in both infection control and general knowledge. This exam takes about three hours to complete and includes 150 multiple-choice questions. The questions may cover topics such as customer service and interaction, sterilization, equipment used in patient care, safety and quality control and cleaning. The CRCST credential is valid for one year, and to renew the credential, it's necessary to take continuing education courses and pay an annual fee.
Sterile processing technician salary
The national average salary for a sterile processing technician is $60,558 per year. This average can vary significantly depending on the business you work for, the city or state you work in and any specialized certifications you have. Your level of experience can also make a significant difference. The more related work experience you have, the higher the income you might expect to make.
For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.
Sterile processing technician job outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical equipment preparers, including sterile processing technicians, can expect a job growth of 6% from 2021 to 2031. This is as fast as the national average for all occupations. This growth might be because of an aging population that needs more health care services. Facilities that often hire sterile processing technicians include:
Postsecondary education institutes
Outpatient care centers
Traits of sterile processing technicians
The job of a sterile processing technician requires specific characteristics to fulfill duties correctly and ensure safety. Some common traits of a sterile processing technician include:
A sterile processing technician needs to be cautious when handling or cleaning surgical instruments and medical equipment. They carefully clean each instrument and piece of equipment to prevent exposure or contamination to blood and other body fluids. It's crucial for sterile processing technicians to wear personal protective equipment, such as shoe covers, shields, face masks, gowns and gloves, to protect themselves from infections, diseases and harsh cleaning agents. They must also be cautious when collecting and disposing of biomedical waste.
Sterile processing technicians also need patience to accomplish their daily duties, as it's necessary to ensure thorough cleanliness and complete sterilization of medical instruments, equipment and the health care facility in general. They patiently follow the established processes and workflows. A sterile processing technician may devote much of their workday to cleaning, washing, flushing and sterilizing instruments, objects or equipment used for surgeries, including each crevice, tube, hinge and screw. They may also have to reassemble each piece accurately to ensure surgical effectiveness and patient safety.
Sterile processing technicians play a key role in ensuring the safety and well-being of every individual in the health care facility, making conscientiousness an important trait to possess. A sterile processing technician should be highly conscientious and read and follow instructions meticulously at all times. This is because each instrument and piece of equipment they clean may have specific instructions on how to wash, sanitize and reassemble pieces. It's also important to disassemble the equipment precisely for thorough cleaning and complete sterilization.
The job of a sterile processing technician requires analytical reasoning, as they're responsible for disassembling, sterilizing and reassembling medical equipment from start to finish. They have to think carefully while handling clinical instruments and equipment to ensure they're safe for use in patients during medical examinations, surgeries and clinical procedures. They're also responsible for checking each instrument and making judgments to identify potential damage or defects and reporting them to their supervisors. After complete sterilization and reassembly of equipment, they're responsible for delivering them to the right facilities or departments.
Attention to detail
A sterile processing technician has to pay attention to every detail during the process of sterilization. This job requires extreme accuracy and a high level of attention to detail to ensure thorough cleanliness and disinfection of all clinical instruments and medical equipment. A sterile processing technician may also have to take inventory, put together instrument trays, order and distribute supplies and check product expiration dates to ensure safety for use. They also have to be alert and attentive while collecting and disposing of material contaminated with blood or body fluids.
Please note that none of the organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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