If you're interested in pursuing a career in sterile processing and obtaining the CRCST certification, you've come to the right place. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about the certification, including what you can expect on the central service technician exam (CRCST).
Certification helps technicians meet the expectations of patients and healthcare facilities by providing reliable and competent services. While patients may not directly interact with SP professionals, they rely on them to deliver safe, quality care.
Here's everything you need to know to earn your certification and pass the CRCST exam.
CRCST stands for Certified Registered Central Service Technicians. You may see job titles for this role that include central processing technician, sterile preparation technician, and central sterile supply technician.
These professionals work in healthcare facilities, particularly in the sterile processing department. They're responsible for maintaining laboratory or healthcare equipment, meaning they do everything from sterilization and inspection to installation.
To pursue a career as a Sterile Processing Technician, you can obtain national certification through the Healthcare Sterile Processing Association (HSPA), the world's leading authority for Sterile Processing professionals.
Note: The HSPA is formerly the IAHCSMM.
CRCST certification serves as tangible proof of a technician's proficiency in specific functions and products related to sterile processing. It validates your knowledge and competence, boosting your professional credibility and opening up career advancement opportunities.
Many healthcare facilities prefer to hire certified technicians as it assures them of your competence and commitment to quality care and patient safety. Having the certification can make you a more competitive candidate for job openings in sterile processing departments.
To become a CRCST, you need to do two things:
Pass the certified registered central service technician exam.
Complete 400 hours of hands-on experience in a sterile processing (SP) department. These hours can be completed within five years before testing (full CRCST) or within 6 months after testing (provisional CRCST).
You can meet eligibility requirements to sit for the exam in two ways:
Have a minimum of 400 hours of hands-on experience in a Sterile Processing department, either on a paid or volunteer basis, before testing. These hours must be distributed as follows:
Decontamination: 120 hours
Preparing & Packaging Instruments: 120 hours
Sterilization & Disinfection: 96 hours
Storage & Distribution: 24 hours
Quality Assurance Processes: 24 hours
Equipment: 16 hours
Complete at least 400 hours of hands-on experience in a Sterile Processing department, either on a paid or volunteer basis, within 6 months of passing the certification exam. The breakdown of these hours should align with the areas of experience mentioned above.
The certified registered central service technician exam consists of 125 scored multiple-choice questions, and 25 unscored pretest questions.
Pretest questions are randomly mixed with the scored questions and are indistinguishable, so be sure to answer all questions to the best of your ability.
The exam is computer-based, and candidates have three hours to complete all 150 questions.
The CRCST exam assesses the knowledge required to perform the duties of a Central Service Technician.
Exam content is divided into seven sections. You can find the full content outline of the CRCST exam here, but here's a quick summary of what to expect from central service exam questions.
Safety standards, including OSHA and bloodborne pathogens
Microbiology and infection prevention
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Equipment operation and maintenance
Chemical safety and handling
Hand hygiene and traffic flow
Safety standards specific to the preparation and packaging area
Temperature and humidity requirements
Work area preparation
Receiving and inspecting items for cleanliness and functionality
Assembling and packaging items for sterilization
Labeling methods and requirements
Transferring items to appropriate areas
Record keeping and maintenance
Environmental condition monitoring and corrective action
Employee education, safety, and risk management
Safety standards specific to sterilization processes
Temperature and humidity requirements
Preparing the work area for sterilization
Sterilizer tests and monitoring
Sterilization methods and cycles
Pre- and post-sterilization package integrity
Operating and monitoring sterilization equipment
Inventory management processes
Distribution methods and procedures
Equipment maintenance and troubleshooting
Instrument identification, handling, and care
Understanding medical terminology
Knowledge of human anatomy
You can register for the CRCST exam on the HSPA website.
Once your full or provisional CRCST exam application is approved, you will receive an email with instructions on scheduling your exam. You can schedule your exam online or by phone for $140 (as of March 2023).
Note that MedCerts students don't have to worry about this exam fee—it's covered by the cost of tuition.
Exam appointments are available throughout the year at Prometric Testing Facilities. Within your 90-day testing eligibility window, you can choose a convenient day from the center's operating days (typically at least 6 days a week). Please note that extensions will not be granted under any circumstances.
To secure your preferred test time, schedule your exam at least 48 hours in advance. It's highly recommended to schedule your appointments at least 45 days before your eligibility expiration to avoid seating limitations or the risk of no available openings at your local center, which would result in the forfeiture of your exam fee.
Passing the exam is a crucial step toward achieving your CRCST certification. To obtain the certification, you must achieve a score of 70% or higher on the exam. Prepare thoroughly, familiarize yourself with the exam content, and approach the test with confidence to increase your chances of achieving a passing score.
If you fail the CRCST exam, you have the option to retake it until you successfully pass. You'll need to complete the retake application provided in your examination report to proceed with a retake.
Note: there is a waiting period of 6 weeks between each attempt, allowing you ample time to further prepare and strengthen your knowledge.
Additionally, a fee of $140 is required for each retake attempt. So to increase your chances of getting a passing score the first time, consider preparing with an online CRCST certification course.
Gain the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in the CRCST exam through our comprehensive online certification course.
This course covers a wide range of topics to ensure your readiness for the exam and success in your career as a central service technician.
You'll acquire essential skills, such as:
A deep understanding of medical terminology, disease processes, anatomy, and physiology
Providing excellent customer service
Effective communication skills
Maintaining professionalism in the healthcare setting
The roles of regulatory agencies like HIPAA, OSHA, CDC, FDA, ANSI, and AAMI.
Central service workflows
Prepare yourself for success in the exam and advance your career in sterile processing through our comprehensive online certification course.
To enroll in the online CRCST certification course, you only need a high school diploma or GED and access to a web browser with an internet connection.
Once you have registered and paid, you will gain access to expert-led video-based training, the Central Service Technician Manual textbook, competency assessments, and even the national certification exam fee.
A Sterile Processing Technician plays a crucial role in maintaining the cleanliness and functionality of medical equipment used in healthcare facilities. Their responsibilities include sterilizing, cleaning, and preparing medical equipment for use. Sterile Processing Technicians primarily work in hospitals and surgical clinics.
Central Sterile Supply Technicians are responsible for sterilizing, cleaning, and preparing medical equipment. They ensure that all instruments and supplies are properly processed and ready for use in healthcare settings. In addition to sterilization tasks, they may also assist with equipment installation and repair.
Take the first step towards achieving your CRCST certification by enrolling in our comprehensive 14-week online program. Designed to provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in the field of sterile processing, this course will prepare you for the CRCST certification exam.
Jumpstart your career and gain the expertise and recognition of earning the CRCST certification.