Sterile Processing Certification: Why it Matters

I’ve heard a lot of prospective students ask me why they need a sterile processing certification to work in the Sterile Processing Department. They’ve seen online Facebook groups where technicians brag about working in Sterile Processing for 30 years without certification, or they hear a story about someone who was able to get a job in SPD without certification or ever working a day in the Sterile Processing Department.

These stories do happen, but the odds of them happening to the average person today are slim to none.

The Old Days

In the old days, Sterile Processing technicians didn’t need a certification to work in SPD. Most hospitals were not aware of the importance and vital role that CS technicians played in the patient safety process, and thus, they never required employees to obtain certification as a condition of employment.

But as more and more hospitals were being shut down due to issues with surgical site infections and sterilization problems in the Sterile Processing Department, hospital facilities began to clue in on how complex the sterile processing profession had become. 

This was no longer “glorified dish-washing”. The addition of innovations to medical devices like laparoscopic instrumentation, scopes, cameras, flexible endoscopes, and robotic instrumentation meant that the old days of one or two-piece stainless steel instrumentation were gone.

The age of complex surgical instrumentation had arrived.

The Modern Era

Today, hospitals in the 21st century have come to the realization that SPD is a fast-moving, constantly evolving landscape. 

Sterile Processing Technicians are required to know hundreds of thousands of unique pieces of instrumentation. There are manufacturer’s instructions for use for each piece of equipment that must be followed. Each IFU mandates unique chemistries, cleaning instructions, contact time, disinfection protocols, inspection, testing, and sterilization guidelines for every instrument. 

There are incredibly complex and difficult to understand standards and guidelines put forward by over a dozen voluntary agencies giving their suggestions for best practice, and regulatory agencies that oversee Sterile Processing and can pull from ANY of these guidelines as well as State and Local laws that govern sterile processing practices.

Sound confusing? It is.

This is the reason why certification is so important in today’s healthcare structure.

Reasons Why Sterile Processing Certification Is Important

The definition of a “professional”, according to the IAHCSMM 8th Edition CRCST Manual, is “someone who works in a profession that requires extensive skills and knowledge to be proficient in that profession”. That definition rings very true when describing a Sterile Processing Technician.

Sterile processing certification proves that you have the basic skills and knowledge to work as a “professional” in the Sterile Processing Department.

And this proof has become incredibly important in today’s workplace culture of Sterile Processing.

Gives You An Edge When Applying For Jobs

There is no better reason to obtain your certification in a challenging field like Sterile Processing than the fact that MOST hiring managers will not even consider a candidate without certification. 

This means, no matter how smart, capable, or dependable you are; no matter how great you are at your current position, or how much schooling you have achieved; there is no path into Sterile Processing without a certification.

Validates Your Expertise To The OR Team

There are inevitable disagreements between the operating room team and sterile processing team over the cleaning and sterilization of instrumentation and the amount of time required for each process. Although getting into disagreements is not the goal of any medical professional, when they do occur, completion of sterile processing training gives you the knowledge of instruments, materials, and procedures you need to stand your ground when there’s confusion on best practices.

And when dealing with the OR during one of these disagreements, it’s always good to be able to cite IAHCSMM, CBSPD, AAMI, or other guidelines for best practice that can confirm your position. Once again, certification is a sign of “professionalism” that speaks to your expertise in the field, so it does come in handy when your argument is questioned.

That’s not to say that you should brag about your certification in every disagreement with the OR, but if the need arises, at least you have that card to play.

Supports Long-Term Career Planning

One trick to forwarding your career in any field is to get as many “titles” after your name as you possibly can. Seeing “Adam Okada” at the top of a resume is certainly not as impressive as seeing, “Adam Okada – CRCST, CIS, CHL” after your name. If you can get a college degree, make sure to put that title after your name on every resume and on LinkedIn. 

Sterile Processing certification is just another sign that you are an expert in your field. Completion of continuing education courses related to sterile processing are key to remaining informed and relevant as a medical professional. Becoming a certified, registered central service technician or SPD tech will make you a more attractive job candidate.

In fact, when you complete sterile processing technician training indicates to managers and potential employers that you are serious about your career in the medical field.

If you do plan on moving up in the field of Sterile Processing, most Manager or Educator positions will require leadership experience (Lead & Supervisor) as well as multiple certifications. So while the leadership opportunities may take 5-10 years to materialize, you can always get started on the certifications now to jump-start your growth.

In Conclusion

The best part is that it doesn’t take a full 4-year commitment like most college degrees. As sterile processing grows in both need and importance, the majority of hospitals and health systems are increasing the pay for Sterile Processing Technicians, as well as required certification to work in the field.

This means that a sterile processing technician without the required certifications will have to get them sooner rather than later. It also presents a prime opportunity for those who want to take the SPD technician certification exam. Not only will you have the experience of working in the field of sterile processing, but you’ll also have up-to-date knowledge of surgical instruments, supplies and equipment, and the various procedures that must be followed to maintain and sterilize them.

Sterile Education was founded to help students achieve their career goals by offering sterile processing certification classes at an affordable rate, and our patient-focused curriculum is designed to make safer patient care possible through proper education.

If you would like to obtain your certification and help increase patient safety through becoming a patient-focused Sterile Processing Technician, then click here to view our open sessions.