Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect more recent statistics as of 12/1/18.
The roles of sterile processing technicians and surgical technologists often get confused. That’s probably to be expected since there is a degree of crossover in the training each receives as well as the duties they perform. Both have a lot to do with keeping surgical instruments and equipment sterile, for example. However, the most obvious difference is that sterile processing technicians rarely – if ever – work in the operating room itself like surgical technologists do.
If surgical technologists are front and center in operating rooms, much like actors in a play, sterile processing technicians primarily work behind the scenes, as a producer would do for that same play. While not present in or during the surgery, sterile processing technicians are integral contributors to every surgery’s success.
Responsibilities of a Sterile Processing Technician
They are responsible for manually cleaning and sterilizing the equipment and instruments to be used during surgery. Sterile processing technicians are also responsible for examining, testing and monitoring certain items, such as autoclaves, to ensure they’re operating properly. If problems arise or malfunctions occur, they report them to the surgeons and may be asked to find replacements. Sterile processing technicians are in charge of inventory control for all sterile items used in operating rooms and typically lay out surgical gowns and gloves prior to each procedure.
Because of their role in surgical preparation, sterile processing technicians must learn the most effective methods of cleaning, storing, sterilizing, and inspecting both instruments and equipment – before and again after each surgery. Additionally, they need to have passed courses in disease control, medical terminology, and microbiology.
Sterile Processing Technician Career Projections
Being a sterile processing technician requires concentration, attention to detail and great responsibility, but it’s a rewarding career that should grow as more people fall under the umbrella of medical insurance and the number of surgeries increase. Career projections suggest sterile processing technician jobs will increase approximately 10 percent over the by 2026 with over 7,000 new positions likely being created.
Individuals interested in a healthcare career who prefer working behind the scenes rather than in the spotlight may wish to investigate what it takes to become a sterile processing technician. Fortis offers Sterile Processing Technician programs at select campuses in Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas and Virginia.
Fortis Sterile Processing Technician graduates are prepared for entry-level positions in hospitals, physicians’ offices, inpatient and outpatient clinics, diagnostic centers and other exciting opportunities. Learn more about training to become a sterile processing technician with Fortis here.