Healthcare is made up of teams. Patients and families are most familiar with nurses, doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and others who provide direct care. Sterile processing technicians, along with others who work behind the scenes, are not as well known, but they are valuable team members, and their work is essential to providing excellent patient care.
Specific duties may vary from one hospital or healthcare setting to another. However, sterile techs process and sterilize equipment and supplies from the operating suites and nursing units of hospitals. They may also prepare and package specialized medical equipment for patient use in various areas of the facilities. In addition, they may also take equipment inventory, maintain accurate sterilization records, report repairs, and monitor records.
In any setting, sterile techs focus on safety. It’s a top priority, and to maintain it, they wear gowns, masks, face shields, shoe covers, and two pairs of gloves. They keep equipment safe to keep patients safe, and that requires constant learning. Innovations in surgical equipment require innovations to clean and sterilize that equipment; this requires asking questions as necessary and referencing how a manufacturer recommends cleaning and disinfecting a particular instrument.
Although they generally work behind the scenes, sterile technicians are a very important part of the healthcare team. Without them and their expertise, scheduled surgeries could not go on as planned because the equipment would not be cleaned, disinfected, and sterilized. Sterile processing technicians are a critical component in the team of professionals ensuring the safety of all surgical patients.
Sterile technicians can work in a variety of environments, including general medical and surgical hospitals, outpatient care centers, physician offices, dental offices, and specialty hospitals. As with any profession, some people may prefer one type of working environment, while others may prefer a very different type. People who prefer a large, busy environment with a variety of shifts available may lean toward working in a hospital setting. Those who prefer a smaller environment without overnights may lean toward a medical or dental office.
A high school diploma is required, and there is specific training available. Community colleges, for example, typically offer a one-year certificate program in central service and sterile processing; some offer a one-semester course. Certification is available, but some states do not require it.
Each sterile processing educational program may be a little bit different, but they generally provide basic instruction to work on a team that manages the sterilization of all instrumentation and equipment – a vital part of maintaining patient safety. It’s important to remember, as noted above, that education does not end when the educational program is over. Sterile techs must constantly work to remain current with new equipment and new techniques to maximize patient safety.
We’re Here – 365
At 365 Healthcare Staffing Services, we specialize in the recruitment and placement of healthcare professionals in per diem, travel, and permanent assignments in healthcare facilities across the country. Are you considering a career as a sterile technician? When you’re ready for a new placement, give us a call at 310.436.3650. We would love to work with you!