By Adam Okada
Sterile Processing is a rapidly evolving field which continues to gain prominence within the healthcare industry due to an increasing focus from hospital surveyors. As more surveyors focus on the processes of the Sterile Processing Department (SPD), sterile processing technicians become ever more important to the health of patients and the success of the medical facility.
Below are 7 reasons for becoming a sterile processing technician.
1. Making a Difference
Patients coming in to a medical facility for surgery are human beings at their most vulnerable. They rely on the surgeon, Operating Room staff, and SPD staff to make sure that their surgery is safe and they are able to quickly recover and return to their normal lives. If the sterile processing technician doesn’t take their job seriously, or if they have a lapse in judgment or focus, it could mean the difference between that surgical patient living, or dying. So if you are the type of person that wants to help make the world a better place, please consider joining the SPD and helping to Save Patients Daily.
2. Be a Professional
The definition of a “professional”, according to the IAHCSMM 8th Edition Manual (IAHCSMM, 2015), is a person working in a profession that requires extensive knowledge and skills. That definition certainly applies to a Sterile Processing Professional. The learning curve is steep, and some technicians don’t start to feel comfortable in the department until 6 – 9 months after starting. But after you get that initial experience of being thrown into the deep end, the light switch will go on, and you will start to realize that you have obtained enough information to feel comfortable working in Sterile Processing. And with that feeling comes that sense of being a true professional, with extensive knowledge and skills in a very difficult area to master.
3. Climb the Ladder
I have probably met thousands of SPD technicians over my years in the industry, whether working with them directly at our home department, or connecting to them at various seminars, conferences, or working groups. And from all that experience, I know that there are always growth opportunities in the field of Sterile Processing. Tech I and Tech II experience will prepare you for becoming a Lead Tech or Operating Room Liaison. Being a Lead or Liaison can ready you for becoming a Supervisor. And that Supervisor experience can ready you for management roles like Manager or Director. Many hospitals have lots of specialty positions, such as ordering supplies and instrumentation, taking over maintenance of the department tracking system, or even becoming a department educator. Some technicians take their experience and become a SPD traveler to explore the country and take high paying temporary jobs. You can write articles for industry publications, submit your articles for CEU credits, and help others learn about topics that they may not know about. Your experience in SPD also can prepare you for becoming a Scrub Tech or joining a Nursing program. Regardless of whether you want to stay for a long career in the SPD or whether you view it as a springboard to loftier goals, Sterile Processing is a great place to start.
4. Never be Bored
If you enjoy a slower paced work environment, or feel more comfortable behind a desk, Sterile Processing is likely not a good fit for your career needs. SPD is a fast-paced environment with constantly shifting priorities and different unique challenges each day. Constant survey readiness means that every day you are improving your processes to meet the ever stringent requirements of regulatory bodies like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), or The Joint Commission (TJC). This constant threat of surveying bodies means that there is a never a “slow” day and you really can’t afford to take a “day off” and not work hard throughout your shift. But there is good news about the fast-pace! I promise that a career in Sterile Processing will never be boring, and your 8 hour shift will absolutely fly by!
The Operating Room is the biggest money maker for any healthcare facility, and Sterile Processing is the foundation that supports the entire perioperative department. As more and more facilities start to recognize how vitally important the Sterile Processing Department (SPD) is to the success of their surgical services, more focus is put on hiring quality certified SPD technicians, and compensating them accordingly. Behind every successful surgery is a quality SPD technician, and hospitals that pay to keep their technicians will see immediate benefits to their profits and bottom line.
Becoming a SPD technician means that you are joining a profession that is vitally needed throughout every healthcare facility and health system. Healthcare benefits are outstanding for most healthcare workers. And while gone are the days of 100% employer provided retirement plans, most facilities do offer employer matching retirement plans and other comparable benefits. But the relative stability of the healthcare market, and the vital need for quality SPD techs means that your job is one of the safest careers a prospective job seeker can find. Sterile Processing is a good stable career with quality benefits.
When I hear most people complain about their jobs, the problem often comes down to them not feeling a sense of purpose. As human beings, we want our lives to have meaning. We have a deep need to make a positive difference in our world, while providing the very best we can for our loved ones. A career in Sterile Processing means that every set you assemble and every instrument you inspect will eventually touch and impact a patient. And the surgical patient is a fellow human being that is at their most vulnerable. That patient impact can be positive or negative, depending on whether the SPD tech did their job, but the weight of that impact is substantial either way. Providing good patient care and saving patients daily, gives many Sterile Processing technicians a real sense of purpose, which ultimately leads to a more content existence.
If you are able to handle the challenges of a fast-paced work environment that will challenge you mentally, physically, and emotionally, then the many benefits of a career in Sterile Processing may be right for you.
IACSHMM CRCST 8th Edition Manual (2015)