Understanding the Important Role of the Sterile Processing Technician
Although surgeons, surgical technologists, nurses and anesthesiologists are often the more visible providers of safe and superior surgical care, there is a little known group of folks called Sterile Processing Techs who work behind the scenes to perform critical functions in infection control and support the delivery of excellent care and patient safety in today’s modern medical facilities and hospitals.
In most modern healthcare settings there exists a wide diversity of medical equipment preparers and/ or allied health support staff professionals that ply their respective expertise and medical discipline day-in and day-out to work in partnership with their allied health colleagues, other medical professionals and patients. Below we’ll take a look at a day in the life of a sterile processing technician as one example of a vital medical profession that you may not be all too familiar with.
Once you have read this blog and have a better understanding of the vital role that a sterile processing technician plays as part of medical healthcare team, you might decide that this occupation may just be the right career move for you!
What They Do?
If you were to perform a job search query on the job title of Sterile Processing Technician you might be surprised by the variety of occupational titles in the results as these professionals are known by many different technical job titles including:
- Central Processing & Distribution Technician (CPD Tech)
- Central Processing Technician (CPT)
- Central Sterile Processing Technician
- Central Sterile Supply Technician (CSS Tech)
- Instrument Technician
- Sterile Processing & Distribution Technician (SPD Tech)
- Sterile Preparation Technician
Just to name a few! Now, you may be asking …“What does a sterile tech actually do?”
CPT’s generally work behind the scenes performing a variety of background technical functions that impact all levels of patient care. While they do not necessarily work directly with patients, CPT’s play a fundamental role not only in the health and welfare of patients but also have considerable influence in the overall reputation of a healthcare facility. Health care–associated infections (i.e. Infection rates) can significantly impact patient outcomes, including mortality rates, length of hospital stay, and costs of overall care. Therefore the role that the CPTs play in maintaining sterile equipment and supplies is of utmost importance for hospital and medical facility administrators worldwide.
As their title states, a major task of a Central Sterile Processing Technician’s (aka Sterile Technicians) role is to process and sterilize equipment and supplies from the operating suites and nursing units of hospitals. These medical professionals are specially trained in the proper care, cleaning, decontamination and sterilization of all surgical instrumentation.
The CPT may also be involved in preparing and packaging specialized medical equipment for patient use in various areas of the facilities. Often Sterile Tech’s will operate and service advanced decontamination and disinfecting apparatus such as ultrasonic washers, steam autoclaves, liquid based washer/disinfectors and vaporized hydrogen peroxide sterilization systems.
Technicians also take equipment inventory; maintain accurate sterilization records, report repairs and monitor records. CPT’s follow strict aseptic protocols that ensure maintaining a clean and safe environment while observing all personal protective equipment standards, standard precautions, infection control practices.
Sterile Processing Tech Salary, Earning Potential and Job Prospects
According to Payscale.com, as of Jan 2016, the average pay for a Sterile Processing Technician is $14.02/hr. or $33,998 annually. The Occupational Outlook handbook classifies Sterile Technicians under the broad category of Medical Equipment Preparers and reports that the median annual wage for medical equipment repairers was $45,660 in May 2014.
For the first five to ten years in this position, a sterile tech’s pay increases sharply and as they generally advance into supervisory positions, like lead tech or department manager. The job outlook is robust in the sterile processing department, with employment expected to grow by 17 percent between 2014 and 2020!
Although, their jobs are distinctly different from that of a surgical technologist, the career outlook and employment trends for many sterile techs are similarly upbeat and positive.
According to O*NET Online Database the occupational category of 31-9093.00 - Medical Equipment Preparers, which is category under which Sterile Processing Technologists fall under, is considered to be a Bright Outlook occupation. The Bright Outlook jobs designation is conferred to those careers that are expected to grow rapidly in the next several years, will have large numbers of job openings, or are new and emerging occupations
Why the Bright Outlook you ask?
Much akin to the growth experienced with surgical technologists, emerging innovations in surgical medical technology have made surgical treatment(s) safer to perform, and a range of supplementary operations/ procedures are being performed in greater numbers to treat a variety of illnesses and injuries. Additionally, as the large baby-boom generation continues to age they typically require more operations and also tend to be more amenable than those of previous generations to seek medical treatment to improve their quality of life.
Ready to Start Your New Career?
If you are ready to play a critical role helping to secure patient safety using diverse technology in the dynamic allied health field then a career in Sterile Processing may be for you – and at Stautzenberger College preparing for your new career couldn’t be easier or faster. Our Brecksville, Ohio campus offers a 40-week Diploma Program in Sterile Processing Technology. You can prepare for your new career in less than one year! Our program is dedicated to providing quality education for its students in order to promote excellence in this allied-health discipline.
The program has been carefully designed to blend didactic instruction, hands-on training to ensure that learners develop the requisite knowledge, skills, and behaviors necessary to gain employment as sterile technicians and become contributing members of the multidisciplinary health care workforce. Contact Stautzenberger College, Brecksville today and begin your education and training to become a veterinary technician. Call toll free at 1-800-473-2997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started today.
Read more about Stautzenberger's Central Sterile Processing Technology Diploma program here!
*Occupational Employment and Wages, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Written by: John Girard
March 31, 2016
John Girard has been the Campus President of Stautzenberger College, Brecksville Campus since 2012. John is an experienced educational leader with over 19 years of collaboratively leading growth, successfully improving student outcomes, and shaping a culture of excellence in the field of higher education. He has held various roles in his career including instructional faculty, Dean of Student Services, Dean of Instruction, Dean of Academic Administration and Campus Director. John resides in Chagrin Falls, Ohio with his wife Tamara and their two children Jack & Jillian and his faithful dog, Zeus. Contact Stautzenberger College at 1-800-473-2997 or by e-mail at email@example.com.