Although hospitals and other medical institutions are heavily associated with nurses and doctors, several other health professionals, such as sterile processing technicians, are critical for delivering quality healthcare to patients in a safe, efficient manner.
Although sterile processing techs don’t have the most publicized jobs, the responsibilities they undertake within the medical system save lives by reducing infection rates and ensuring the sterile and functioning supply of materials and equipment necessary to care for patients.
“The role that sterile processing plays in the healthcare system cannot be overstated,” RN and clinical educator Jay Shreve states in an article for Infection Control Today.
The Role of Sterile Processing Techs
Sterile processing technicians are primarily responsible for collecting, decontaminating, and sterilizing surgical instruments, reusable medical devices, and other patient care equipment. They must know industry standards and procedures, as well as how to use different sterilization materials and equipment. They also perform other maintenance tasks, which include preparing trays for designated areas and keeping an inventory of supplies and materials.
While these perfunctory tasks happen behind the scenes, they are important to the safe and efficient functioning of hospitals and medical centers. Maintaining a healthy supply of sterile equipment and materials reduces the rate of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) and helps break the six-step Chain of Infection: a causative agent, reservoir of the agent, portal of exit of the agent from the reservoir, mode of transmission, portal of entry into the host, and a susceptible host. Sterile processing and decontamination of workspaces, materials, equipment, and medical devices can mitigate the transfer of infection along the chain.
Decreasing HAIs is key to supporting both individual and public health, which is the foremost goal of the healthcare system. Besides the ethical consideration of saving human lives, promoting safe practices at hospitals and doctor’s offices can help reduce the risk of hospitals being sued or facing other liabilities.
Career Opportunities for Sterile Processing Technicians
The job market for sterile processing technicians is expected to grow by approximately 20% from 2022 through 2026. These healthcare professionals can find job opportunities not only at general medical and surgical hospitals but also outpatient centers and private medical practices.
In large cities in Oregon, such as Portland, Bend, and Salem, sterile process technicians can make about $52,000 to $54,000 per year, according to ZipRecruiter. The annual salary is from $46,000 to $48,000 in rural areas in Oregon. The average salary for sterile processing technicians in Oregon is $45,445 compared to $48,157 nationwide as of December 2019.
Sterile processing technicians work hours that are fairly standard in the medical profession, although it can vary based on the environment. Private practices may have more 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shifts than hospitals or other public institutions. At these facilities, there are three shifts techs tend to work: 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., 3 to 11 p.m., and 11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.
Who Should Consider Sterile Processing Tech Jobs?
Sterile processing technician jobs are ideal for students who desire to work in the healthcare industry and make a difference in the lives of thousands of people. These health professionals must be highly detail-oriented and have the ability to multitask, as they’re responsible for ensuring every part of various surgical and procedural instruments are sterilized and re-assembled properly.
Additionally, sterile processing technicians need to have strong verbal and nonverbal communication skills to be part of an allied healthcare team. Although they may have little contact with patients on a day-to-day basis, they will frequently communicate with their colleagues and supervisors.
Becoming a Sterile Processing Technician
One primary benefit of pursuing a career in sterile processing is that, unlike other medical-related jobs, it requires less than a year of education and training. After completing a high school diploma or equivalent, students can enroll in a training program for sterile processing at a training school or community college before getting hands-on experience at a healthcare facility.
Things about sterile services you didn’t know of!
The “Heart of the Hospital” is also referred to as a Sterile Processing Technician. The Sterile Processing Department has a location in a hospital or surgery center. This is where surgical instruments and equipment used in medical and surgical procedures are cleaned and sterilized. This meaning is understandably not amusing; but, for those who call SPD “home,” it means so much more! A lot of countries like the USA have sterile processing technician schools.
Sterile Processing- Heart of Hospital’s Functioning
In almost all the modern healthcare frameworks, a wide diversity of technologically advanced medical equipment is being dealt with and taken care of by a group of individuals. Sterile processing is a division in the hospitals and healthcare centers responsible for the cleaning, inspection, and disinfection (sterilization) of devices used in medical procedures. This department is critical for the functioning of safe, clean, and healthy medical/ surgical procedures. The workers in this horizon are to train as this job demands precision, accuracy, technical know-how, and attention to minute details: it is indeed a skillful craft that influences the patient’s experience. In this article, you will explore the fascinating facts about the sterile processing technician school and details on a journey to become one.
Fascinating facts about sterile services
- Sterile Processing jobs or central sterile processing might seem to be a piece of cake, but indeed is a tedious team sport that requires stamina, precision, technical know-how, accuracy, and speed.
- Sterile Processing Department is a polyonymous term: Also known as Central Supply (CS), Central Sterile Services Department (CSSD), Sterile Processing Department (SPD), etc.
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50,550 instrument specialist technicians (provide sterile services) in the U.S as of May 2020.
- Sterile processing departments in a healthcare facility can employ people between 1-100 depending on the facility, hospital structure, specialization division, etc
- The sterile services industry is one of the Industries with the highest levels of employment:
- General medical and surgical hospitals — 35,100
- Physician offices — 2,890
- Dentist offices — 2,380
- Outpatient care centers — 3,660
- States with the highest employment level:
- California — 6,540
- Florida — 4,580
- Texas — 3,100
- Ohio — 2,260
- New York — 2,230
- The sterile processing technician salary in the USA has an average hourly wage of $18.28-$26.56.
- The subjects that sterile processing technicians are equipped with is broad as it covers:
- Sterilization methods
- Infection control
- Human anatomy
- Medical Instrumentation
- Surgical terminology
- Surgical instrumentation
- Safety and risk control
- The staff of the Sterile processing department is crucial in helping prevent healthcare-associated infections. Performing their duties negligently might lead the patients at risk for HAIs. HAIs occurred in an estimated 722,000 patients in acute care hospitals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Training for the central sterile technicians in the sterile processing department often includes a clinical practicum.
- One year of certified training like sterile processing technician certificate program in pa or sterile processing technician schools in the USA is a must for all individuals new to a sterile processing department.
Sterile Processing Technician: Impact during Covid-19 & Career Outlook
The onset of COVID-19 has led to an increase in the healthcare workforce to ~20% and is expected to increase manifold. COVID has opened the peoples’ and nation’s eyes to improve healthcare quality and associated workforce. Sterile professionals are considered as the heart in the smooth functioning of the medical industry. There is undoubtedly a strong urge and significant emphasis on maintaining overall and personal hygiene, adopting safe protocols for substantial protection, and technical and general awareness of the surroundings to combat the spread and transmission of diseases.
Suppose you are interested in being a part of the healthcare industry and a highly meticulous and detail-oriented person. And passionate about contributing to millions of lives being at the backdrop of the industry, providing assistance, and rendering mission-critical services: sterile processing technician training can be the first step towards it. A sterile processing technician certificate program in the USA is crucial for those in the United States, attaining the required knowledge and will equip you with hands-on experience in Disinfection of Surgical instruments, sterilization, preparation, and transport inventory management, Infection Prevention, Tools for cleaning, Decontamination, etc.
One of the finest Sterile processing schools in Philadelphia is Philadelphia Technician Training Institute. It trains you to be a proficient worker and assists in Job Application Skills like resume writing, communication skills, and support through interviewing processes. In addition, it provides excellent career services to enable the students to land desired roles/jobs.
The predictions are that the scope of sterile processing technician jobs in the USA or any other country for that matter has experienced massive growth and will grow exponentially. It is undoubtedly beneficial for students venturing out in the professional world and an excellent career for individuals with an interest and inclination toward the medical industry. Over and above, Sterile processing is a well-paying, demanding career in the healthcare industry.
The reprocessing cycle requires that an instrument be sterile and safe to use. Various test packs may be used to track sterility assurance, depending on the type of sterilization procedure used or the parameters being tested. A passing biological and chemical indicator test verifies that the sterilization cycle’s essential criteria were met.