Sterile Processing Technician

Should There Be Certification For Sterile Processing Technicians?

Sterile Processing Technician certification

After you have completed your training you may want to look in to a getting your certification for sterile processing technicians to be able to compete at a higher level. In the past certification was strictly voluntary for sterile processing technicians except in New Jersey but this has been rapidly changing over the past few years. More and more states are looking in to following New Jersey’s lead by requiring certification for this profession. But the question remains, should you do it?

In the following article we will discuss the certification process and what you would have to do to become certified.  Plus, we will look at why it is a good idea to take the extra step to become certified.

Argument For Certification of Sterile Processing Technicians

It might seem strange that certain professions such as a professional message therapist or a truck driver would need some sort of certification for employment but the person in charge of sterilizing medical devices would not legally need to be certified. Almost every other healthcare profession has regulations that require certification and yet in one area that deals infection control and safety of medical instruments in the operating room does not have such a requirement.

As mentioned earlier, the certification of sterile processing technicians has been voluntary for a number of years.  It wasn’t until 2004 when New Jersey passed the first law requiring that central supply technicians were to pass a certification process. Some states such as New York and Pennsylvania have considered adding this law to the books, most states seems to be blind to it right now.

While there may currently not be legal reasons why sterile processing techs should become certified, a growing number of hospitals and medical facilities have started to make this a requirement for hiring. Having your staff certified in their respected positions is only a positive for the healthcare facility since the general consensus is that the public feels safer and more at ease knowing that someone has been specially trained for their position. Plus, there is a level of accountability with those professionals that have been certified.

How to become a sterile processing technician

Becoming Certified as a Sterile Processing Technician

There are two organizations that currently provide certification for sterile processing technicians; the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) and the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Material Management (IAHCSMM). Each certification body has their own requirements for certification and certification types. Let’s look at each organization and their certification process.

Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD)

The CBSPD offers two certifications of note; the Certified Sterile Processing and Distribution Technician (CSPDT) and the Certified Surgical Instrument Specialist (CSIS).  There are separate requirements for each of these certifications as well as testing and fees. Both of these exams are valid for five years and will require re-certification or continuing education in order to be re-certified.

The CSPDT certification exam is roughly two hours long and have 125 questions with a minimum score of 70% to pass. In order to take this exam you are required to: complete a sterile processing technician training program or have at least 12 months experience as a full time sterile processing tech or 6 months experience in a related allied health as well as performing sterile processing or 12 months in a healthcare product sales or service related to sterile processing.

The CSIS certification exam is two hour timed test with 100 questions and a 70% or higher passing grade. In order to take this exam, you would need to be CSPDT certified and completed a surgical instrument processing class or have 24 months full time experience as a sterile processing technician or completion of a surgical instrument processing or surgical technology course or 24 months experience as a surgical instrument sales or service position.

International Association of Healthcare Central Service Material Management (IAHCSMM)

You will have to become a member of the IAHCSMM in order to take either the Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) exam or the Certified Instrument Specialist (CIS) exam. A benefit of becoming a member of the IAHCSMM is that they provide training programs that are helpful to their certification exams. Your IAHCSMM certifications are valid for one year and require continuing education programs and a yearly re-certification fee.

CRCST Certification Exam

The requirement of the CRCST exam is at least 400 hours of work experience as a sterile processing technician. Unlike other exams, you can accrue your experience before and after passing the exam as long as it is within six months. The CRCST will cover infection control processes and general central service knowledge. Once you have passed and received your CRCST certification, you are eligible to take the CIS. As the name implies, you will be tested on a range of medical instruments as well as instrumentation skills.

Reasons To Become Certified As A Sterile Processing Technician

As mentioned earlier, currently New Jersey is the only state that requires certification for sterile processing technicians but there are other states considering this requirement in the future. Even though right now you may not need to become certified, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seriously consider doing it.

Becoming certified as a sterile processing technician will give you and your patients a stronger sense of professionalism. You have shown that you are taking your career seriously and you keep up with the latest changes in the healthcare industry, especially with medical technology.

When it comes to hiring, a growing number of medical facilities such as hospitals have either started to require or lean towards applicants who have certification. There are a few reasons for this including the safety of the patients and create a more professional environment in the face of the growing need of healthcare professionals. Some other reasons include:

  • Accountability
  • Improve patient care
  • Ease the mind of the public
  • Expertise and professionalism
  • Promote personal satisfaction for sterile process technicians

Another to become certified is money. Your employer and prospective employers may increase your pay in return for your extra effort. Let’s face it, you may enter this field to help others and have a long, industrious career in the healthcare industry but money is important  Being able to both improve your salary as well as the quality of your employment is a pretty big reason on why getting your certification is a good idea.

As we have seen, currently outside of New Jersey there isn’t a legal reason to get your certifications as a sterile processing technician. Even though it isn’t legally required, there are plenty of reasons to become certified from a professional or monetary standpoint to even getting ahead of the curve as more states look to add this requirement in for sterile processing techs. By going the extra few steps for certification, you are just bettering your chance for a longer and more prosperous career as a sterile processing technician.

How Can You Become a Sterile Processing Technician?

Sterile Processing Technician Training

As an entry level position, training to become a sterile processing technician is fairly easy, especially compared to other healthcare professions. In this article we will discuss some of the ways that you can become a sterile processing technician including training and personality traits one will need to know to enter this profession.

Personality Traits of a Sterile Processing Technician

While education and experience are important, sometimes it is the actual person that makes their job a success. Like most jobs, your personality will help determine your success as a sterile processing technician. It is possible to do well in this job without a drive and passion for keeping people safe, but your chances of this are fairly slim. You need the right mindset and personality to be a great sterile processing tech.  Below you will find a chart that covers some of the top traits that help make one successful in this career.

Personality Traits of a SPT

Sterile Processing Technician Training

Depending on your long range professional goals and where you live or plan to work, there are different paths in which a person can travel to become a sterile processing technician. The two main paths are on-the-job training and a formal educational training program. There are both pros and cons to each of these training paths so let’s look at them individually.

On-The-Job Training

In some areas of the country where competition for these positions are low, you may get hired by a hospital and undergo an on-the-job training program. In some of these cases, it is very possible to get hired as a sterile processing tech with just a high school diploma or the equivalent.

The positives of this training path seem fairly straightforward. You will gain real work experience and a paycheck while being trained as a sterile processing tech. This is great for those who are looking for a healthcare related profession but either do not have the resources or the desire to go through a formal educational program.

The possible negatives of the on-the-job training would be the lack of a degree or certificate. Even though experience and proven competency are important, an increasing number of medical facilities and states are adding formal training as one of the requirements. This would probably mean that you would be grandfathered in your position but it may be harder to change your place of employment.

Post-Secondary Education

If you have decided to go the more formal education route, you will find that most community colleges and vocational schools offer sterile processing technician training programs. These training programs take upwards of nine months and normally split between the classroom and a hands-on or externship to give the student some real life experience.

While the actual curricula may be different from school to school, you will cover a number of topics found in most healthcare programs such as medical terminology and ethics. Some of the more specific sterile processing technician subjects such as decontamination tools and sterilization processes will be emphasized. The chart below lists some of the topics normally covered in class.

Sterile Curriculum

Even though completing a formalized training program does not mean you automatically mean you have a job, it does show potential employers that you are serious about your career. With a certificate in hand, it will most likely be easier to gain employment than someone without the formal background. Another positive is the chance for a higher salary as most professions reward education since these medical facilities would not have to pay for your training.

On the negative side, you will need to spend money in order to attend one of these training programs, which can run for several thousand dollars. Not to mention the amount of time to study and attend classes meaning that it may be hard to hold a job at the same time.

What About Online Training?

Recently we’ve also seen a growing number of online schools provide the proper training program for those interested in sterile processing technician career. Online schools provide a great service to those with busy schedules who are looking to improve their station in life. Being able to set your own schedule when to attend your online class is a bonus for those with kids or a full time job. The one major down side is that you will still need to complete the laboratory section of the class to receive your certificate.

Becoming a sterile processing technician is a great way to enter the world of healthcare. The prerequisites have a low barrier as compared to other healthcare professions. The decision on which route you would like to go so far as on-the-job training or a formal training program is one you will have to make by listing your priorities of getting a job quicker or making a larger and potentially more lucrative commitment to your career.

What Is A Sterile Processing Technician?

what is a sterile processing technician?

There are a number of unsung heroes in the healthcare industry, probably none more so than that of a sterile processing technician. Working mainly outside the limelight of other professions, sterile processing technicians work hard to prevent infections and other possible medical complications. Their work is so vital that most modern medical facilities would have a difficult time functioning without them.

It is hard to imagine that this profession makes such an impact on healthcare but still most people have never heard of a sterile processing technician or know what exactly they do. In this article, we will be looking at the position of a sterile processing technician and what duties they perform in order to give a little credit to this unnoticed profession.

What Does a Sterile Processing Technician do?

To put it plainly, a sterile processing technician is a specially trained healthcare worker that uses their specialized skill and knowledge to clean and sterilize medical instruments, equipment and supplies. This process is extremely important since most modern medical facilities will use thousands of medical instruments and equipment on a monthly basis. If the cleaning and sterilization is done correctly, then these can be reused safely, thus reducing preventable and possible life-threatening infections.

There are a number of responsibilities that fall under the sterile processing technician job description. While they may not perform every one of these duties every day, they must know how to competently complete the tasks if given. Some of the duties of a sterile processing technician include:

  • Deliver sterile supplies and retrieve contaminated supplies
  • Manual cleaning of instruments and equipment to remove contaminates
  • Operation and maintenance of decontamination equipment
  • Meticulous examination of instruments and equipment to ensure they are clean
  • Monitor and operate sterilization equipment such as an autoclave
  • Test and report any issues  or problems with sterilizing equipment
  • Keep record of items that have been cleaned and sterilized
  • Remove all waste matter from equipment and carts
  • Assemble and sterilize instrument trays
  • Restock crash carts
  • Organize, store and keep record of sterile supplies
  • Inventory control of supplies including reordering and checking expiration dates

what do sterile processing technicians do

Where Do Sterile Processing Technicians Work?

Sterile processing technicians work in any number of healthcare facilities, but most find work in hospitals and surgical centers. Normally there is a specialized department that is set up in an area that can be controlled for proper sterilization purposes, commonly called sterile processing and distribution department. The SPDD is generally comprised of five mini groups for the process of sterilization.

  • Decontamination – Manually cleaning of instruments and equipment
  • Assembly – Decontaminated items are inspected and placed in sets or trays for sterilization
  • Sterilization – Items are sterilized using autoclaves or similar devices
  • Storage – Cleaned and sterilized items or sets are stored until needed
  • Distribution – Carts are readied and delivered to proper locations

The Importance of Sterile Processing Technicians

The importance of their duties cannot be stressed enough when considering the alternative. Even though it is relatively rare, diseases such as HIV and hepatitis as well as surgical site infections (SSI) are a few of the possible problems that may be transferred from improperly cleaned instruments and equipment.

Let’s face it, patients have a preconceived expectation that any procedures performed at, the medical staff of and everything else to do with a healthcare facility is safe environment from potential infections. While it might be a bit of a reach to believe that hospitals and other medical facilities are completely sterile and free of life-threatening germs, infection prevention starts with the sterile processing technician.

So even though sterile processing technicians may not get the accolades and praise they deserve, their work behind the scenes is extremely necessary to help curb infections and make a hospital stay a little safer. If you are looking for a challenging and rewarding career in healthcare, you might want to look in to training programs to become a sterile processing technician.