Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect more recent findings as of 12/18/18.
If you want to work as a sterile processing technician, you'll need to enroll in a program that trains you to work in this ever growing field. As a sterile processing technician, you will be responsible for making sure that every tool that is used in a medical facility, including hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers, is properly sterilized. Since there is an increased need for individuals who are knowledgeable about infection control methods (particularly in an era of antibiotic-resistant diseases), this field is an exciting and demanding one in which to work.
When enrolling in a school that focuses on learning about sterile processing, you can be expected to learn the following:
How to properly clean and sterilize a variety of medical instruments
The correct names and usage for a medical instrument, depending on the procedure as well as how to properly store them
How to ensure that even when these instruments are used, they are not being contaminated in the process
A basic understanding of microbiology
Proper infection control methods.
Students in this program who want to be trained as sterile technicians can be expected to have hands-on training in both a lab environment and through real-life experience.
Job Opportunities and Responsibilities
For a sterile processing technician, there are many opportunities to not only work in hospital operating and delivery rooms but also doctor's offices, urgent care centers and other diagnostic centers. Ensuring that each tool that is handled by a physician or other medically-trained staff is sterile and contaminant-free is critical. Your role in keeping people healthy is very important!
In addition to handling numerous and sometimes complicated medical instruments, a sterile processing technician is also responsible for making sure that the chance of any infection spreading within a facility is minimal. Steps to reduce the possibility of such an occurrence, particularly during surgery or when assisting with a procedure where infection may be rampant, is key.
Consequently, as a tech, you aren't just "cleaning tools," but rather playing an important role in making sure that any infection a medical staff might be dealing with is kept under control.