Sterile Processing Technician
A sterile processing technician is a medical technician who is responsible for the sterilization, cleaning and aftercare of instruments and other equipment used in medical procedures. An SPT must manually clean and sterilize all used instruments and equipment before placing the sterilized equipment in an autoclave or other designated storage area.
Sterile processing techs must also thoroughly examine medical equipment as they are cleaning it, in order to look for defects or problems with the instruments which must then be reported to a superior.
Most sterile processing technicians are responsible for inventorying medical equipment at the end of each day. Some sterile processing technicians are also responsible for ordering supplies, assembling instrument trays before medical procedures or appointments, and distributing supplies throughout their area of employment. Technicians are sometimes called sterilization technicians or processing technicians. A tech can work in a variety of hospital settings, such as hospitals, private clinics, and doctor’s offices.
The specific daily tasks of a sterile processing technician may depend on how many sterile processing technicians are working in their area of employment, how much experience they have, what duties other employed medical personnel are assigned and what kind of area they are employed in. However, most sterile processing technicians are responsible for the same general duties, whether they are working in a hospital, private clinic, retirement home, or other medical employer.
A sterile processing technician is first and foremost responsible for the cleaning and sterilization of medical equipment and instruments. All medical equipment must be cleaned manually using approved cleaning solutions and methods, as using inferior chemicals or improperly cleaning equipment can lead to the spread of bacteria or illnesses to patients or medical staff.
Before or during the cleaning process, a sterile processing technician must also thoroughly examined the medical equipment or instruments for any defects, broken parts, or other concerns. If there are any defects, they must be promptly recorded and reported to a superior. After cleaning and examination, the equipment must then be sterilized.
The sterilization process can be simple or complicated, depending on the type of equipment being sterilized. For example, the sterilization of a surgical knife will be much simpler than the sterilization of complicated equipment used during the surgery. After sterilizing the equipment, the technician must return it to its proper replace—whether that is in storage or back into an operating or clinical room.
While the main duties of a sterile processing technician are the cleaning and sterilization of equipment, they are usually responsible for the inventory and management of equipment within their employment setting. This means that they must take inventory at the beginning and end of every shift, making sure that the right amount of equipment is available to the medical staff and that they are also responsible for ordering medical supplies. Some sterile processing technicians are also responsible for the distribution of supplies throughout their area of employment, as well as setting up instrument trays before operations, appointments or other medical procedures.
The specific tasks and business of a sterile processing technician can depend on their area of employment. A sterile processing technician who works in a private clinic or doctor’s office may find that they are the only sterile processing technician on site, which means that they are solely responsible for all of the sterile processing technician duties in the workplace. However, sterile processing technicians who work at larger hospitals may find that there are several other sterile processing technicians to divide the work amongst.
Some employment settings may give certain sterile processing technician responsibilities to other medical employees, usually other technicians or assistants. For example, a medical assistant might be given the duty of setting up instrument trays before medical procedures, while the sterile processing technician is only responsible for their cleaning and sterilization.
Training & Certification
The only equipment for becoming a sterile processing technician is a high school diploma or the adult equivalent. However, it highly recommended that you seek some kind of training if you wish to work as a sterile processing technician due to the competitive job market and the rising number of medical employees looking for work. There are some colleges which offer certification programs in sterile processing, while others even offer a single semester course.
A typical sterile processing technician course will cover medical terminology, sterilization techniques, equipment management, as well as computer and lab courses. Certification can be obtained from several organizations, such as the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Material Management and the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution. Most of these certifications require the passing of an exam and a certain number of work experience.
Sterile processing technicians must be able to work on their feet for a significant part of the day, and be efficient and thorough when it comes to cleaning and sterilization. Anyone hoping to work as a sterile processing technician must also have a good mind for inventory and good interpersonal skills—although sterile processing technicians rarely work with patients, they will be required to interact with fellow medical personnel on a consistent basis.
Salary & Prospective Job Market
The number of sterile processing technicians hired is expected to rise by 7 to 13 percent in the next two decades. Most of the employment options for sterile processing technicians will be at hospitals, due to the higher number of surgical procedures being done every year and thus the need for more sterile processing technicians. However, employment as dental offices, private clinics and outpatient treatment centers is also expected to rise.
The salary of a sterile processing technician largely depends on their level of experience, their education and what kind of setting they are employed in. The hourly pay for a sterile processing technician ranges from about $9.60 an hour to $19.00 an hour. The more experience and education you have in the field, the more likely you are to make an hourly wage on the higher end of the range.