The uncertainty surrounding starting a new career path can be quite daunting. However, getting the opportunity to use the skills you've worked extra hard to acquire often makes the experience quite exciting and fulfilling. As a sterile processing technician, you play an indirect yet critical role in patient care.
The variety and number of medical devices have steadily grown over time. Soft or single-use goods are only utilized on one patient before disposal. Meanwhile, reusable goods need reprocessing after every procedure. In this profession, you are in charge of washing, disinfecting, cooling, assembling, sterilizing, packaging, and delivering reusable surgical tools for different health departments.
You can work in hospitals, dental centers, physician offices, surgical clinics, and standalone special facilities like pediatric or orthopedic centers. Here's what to expect on a typical day in the life of a sterile processing technician.
By joining the sterile processing unit, you get to team up with a small group of dedicated personnel. The department has four key subsections where you may work in one area per shift or cycle through different areas throughout the day.
An average day in sterile processing starts in the decontamination area. You receive, soak, and clean used surgical equipment in cleaning trays. Manual or mechanical cleaning using water with detergent removes visible foreign material like soil, dust, secretions, excretions, and blood. During the cleaning process, you are required to wear personal protective equipment, such as:
Full-length face shields
The next step is disinfection which reduces the number of active disease-causing pathogens on medical equipment. Chemical disinfectants like alcohol, formaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide, and peracetic acid are used during disinfection. This stage, however, isn't sufficient to inactivate some viruses, bacteria, fungal spores, and prions. These are eliminated through sterilization, the final step in the decontamination process.
After decontamination, you inspect the instruments for damage and cleanliness. Any contaminated or damaged equipment is re-cleaned or discarded with proper documentation. Afterward, you can assemble and package the surgical items in rigid containers, trays, and peel-open pouches, or with stock roll film and sterilization wraps. The packaging material acts as a barrier to microbial recontamination during handling and prepares the device for sterilization.
Sterilization eliminates resilient bacterial spores in the final stage of decontamination. Steam sterilization is one of the most common ways of achieving sterilization. It is an inexpensive and non-toxic process that uses moist heat in saturated steam under pressure. The packed items are arranged to allow free circulation of steam or other sterilant agents like ethylene oxide and hydrogen peroxide gas plasma.
After sterilization, you can store the items in long-term designated storage units. The sterile packaging comes with mechanical, biological, and chemical indicators that monitor quality during storage. The stored medical devices are reviewed after specific durations to ensure they aren’t contaminated.
As a sterile processing technician, you are tasked with workflow management. With different health departments requesting supplies, you have to balance orders, cancellations, reschedules, and add-ons. Case carts present a convenient solution for availing surgical supplies while maintaining sterile integrity during distribution.
To start your journey assisting patient care through sterile processing, enroll today in MedCert's 14-week online training program. With MedCerts, you get the necessary certification to be part of a highly skilled team in a growing profession. Review the course enrollment requirements for eligibility in this noble field.
Dana has over twenty (20) years’ experience in Allied Healthcare and Education, and currently serves as the Chief Product Officer for MedCerts where he is responsible for product vision and strategy, research, and development.
Dana joined MedCerts upon its founding in 2009, and has led the research, development, and production of the entire catalog of programs that have helped MedCerts transform the distance learning landscape. Leveraging state-of-the-art technologies and innovative instructional design practices, Dana and his team have pioneered the development of the MedCerts 12 Elements of eLearning. Each MedCerts program contains a proprietary blend of these engaging, interactive, and entertaining elements that effectively accommodate learners of all types. Dana is deeply in-tune with the needs of today’s healthcare employers and is an expert in careers and certifications related to allied health.
Dana holds a Bachelor of Science in Education (BS) degree from Valparaiso University, and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from Davenport University. Dana is an avid sports fan and in his free time enjoys mountain biking, woodworking, knifemaking, and spending time with his family and pets.