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How to Pass the CRCST Certification Exam

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. 

    What Is A Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST)?

    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.

    Benefits Of Gaining CRCST Certification

    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.

    How To Earn Your CRCST Certification

    To become a CRCST, you need to do two things:

    1. Pass the certified registered central service technician exam.

    2. 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).

    CRCST exam prerequisite requirements

    You can meet eligibility requirements to sit for the exam in two ways:

    Option 1: Full Certification (Recommended)

    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

    Option 2: Provisional Certification

    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.

    Overview of the CRCST exam

    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.

    Cleaning, Decontamination & Disinfection (20%)

    • 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

    Preparation & Packaging (20%)

    • 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

    Documentation & Record Maintenance (10%)

    • Record keeping and maintenance

    • Environmental condition monitoring and corrective action

    • Employee education, safety, and risk management

    Sterilization Process (20%)

    • 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 & Distribution (10%)

    • Inventory management processes

    • Distribution methods and procedures

    Equipment & Instrumentation (10%)

    • Equipment maintenance and troubleshooting

    • Instrument identification, handling, and care

    Medical Terminology & Human Anatomy (10%)

    • Understanding medical terminology

    • Knowledge of human anatomy

    Registering for the CRCST exam

    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

    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.

    What if You Fail the CRCST Exam?

    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.

    Preparing For The Exam: Online CRCST Certification Course

    Gain the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in the CRCST exam through our comprehensive online certification course.

    Skilled gained

    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.

    Program requirements

    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.

    Included program materials

    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.

    Certified Registered Central Service Technician Salary & Career Pathways

    Sterile Processing Technician ($26,000 - $45,000)

    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 Technician ($26,000 - $45,000)

    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.

    Enroll Today: Online CRCST Certification Course

    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.

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    Published on July 12, 2023


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