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.