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Sterile Processing Tech
By Allison Skoglind, allied health world contributing writer
Published: March, 13 2011
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What is a sterile processing technician?
Sterile processing techs may handle the sterilization and decontamination of surgical instruments, supplies, and equipment in order to protect patients and other medical professionals. More specifically, the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) has outlined several knowledge-based roles and responsibilities that are expected of all entry-level SPTs.
Below are common SPT tasks outlined by the CBSPD:
- All SPTs should be able to identify all potential workforce hazards including wet floors, bodily fluids, and medical waste.
- SPTs should be familiar with ergonomic considerations and body mechanics.
- SPTs need to apply the policies and procedures associated with all sterile processing tasks.
- Since SPTs work in medical settings, they are required to comply with the federal, state and local guidelines with regard to standards and regulations pertaining to sterile processing.
- SPTs are also obligated to fully respect the legal and ethical considerations of patient and employee confidentiality.
- SPTs are to observe professional standards in personal hygiene and dress codes.
- SPTs should also recognize the requirements that are needed to maintain traffic control within the workplace to ensure safety.
- Finally, SPTs must have extensive knowledge regarding the major functions of the sterile processing department in which they work including the decontamination area, assembly and packaging area, sterile storage area, and distribution area.
These specialized health care professionals are expected to continue to rise in demand as advances in technology allow for more cost-effective surgeries. Since this is still an emerging occupation, sterile processing technicians (SPTs) are not federally required to become nationally certified or licensed. However, the New Jersey State Department of Health does require all SPTs to become certified prior to practicing within the state. Currently, the International Association of Healthcare Central Services and Material Management (IAHCSMM) and the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) primarily dictate the quality standards for this profession. Other common names for SPTs are “surgical processing technicians” and “central services technicians”. Although sterile processing techs are not federally regulated yet, these professionals often complete formal education and training programs in order to better serve the medical community.
What are the steps to becoming a sterile processing technician?
The sterile processing technician profession is a relatively new and emerging occupation. As such, national standards are still being developed and defined in an attempt to create a universal consensus regarding the proper training, education, credential, and scope of practice delegated for SPTs. However, without federal and/or state government regulations, there is not a distinct series of mandatory steps required to become a sterile processing technician in the United States. The only exception is New Jersey, which does require that all SPTs comply with the guidelines and competencies put forth by the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) by becoming certified prior to employment. Still, SPTs that seek job opportunities across the remaining forty-nine states can complete several steps that can help increase the likelihood of a successful career.
- The first step is to earn a high school diploma or equivalent (GED).
- The second step is to complete a formal education program in the field of allied health.
- The third step is to complete a training course that is specific to central services and/or the sterile processing tech occupation
- The fourth step is to apply education and training by participating in an internship, volunteer position, job shadowing, mentorship, or part-time job that involves performing the duties of a sterile processing technician in a real-life practice setting
- The fifth step is to sit for examination by the CBSPD in order to gain sterile processing technician certification.
- The next step is to secure employment and continue to gain work experience.
- The last step is to engage in field-related continuing education activities to maintain certification.
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