By Adam Okada
Choosing the correct training program for obtaining your certification in Sterile Processing is the first step to becoming a Sterile Processing Technician. This article will give you guidance through that decision making process, and give you several questions to ask prospective sterile processing technician schools or teachers before giving up your hard earned money.
Do I even need a training program? What about Self-Study options?
Self-study options do exist online, and the primary one that most think of is available on the IAHCSMM website through Purdue University. Self-study options are often cheaper than brick and mortar or online schools and the cost of these programs is often what drives people towards them. The drawback to self-study is that the CRCST (IAHCSMM) or CSPDT (CBSPD) are very difficult exams to pass. On a cursory look at IAHCSMM data on their website, only about 60% of applicants pass the CRCST exam on their first try. Of those that failed, the vast majority chose some type of self-study option.
The reason that a certification training program is preferable to self-study is because trained instructors have the experience of taking and passing the exam and know what questions are likely to appear. Some instructors even helped to write and develop the test along with the test questions, and those educators are of particular value to students. Having an instructor that can show you what areas of the 500+ page manual to focus on is an invaluable resource. Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to decide if self-study is right for them, but my recommendation is always that students have been proven to be better prepared for passing the exam with a quality instructor.
Choosing the Right Program
Choosing a quality sterile processing certification program requires research and depending upon your needs, you should be able to find a program that works for you.
The most important part of any sterile processing certification preparation class is to make sure that you have a qualified, certified instructor. In addition to their qualifications, you should always ask them why decided to teach in the first place. An instructor who is passionate about sterile processing and patient care will always be the best kind of teacher, because they will inspire you to be at your very best. You should always call and ask several questions about your instructor:
- How much experience does the instructor have in Sterile Processing?
- Is the instructor certified in Sterile Processing?
- Has the instructor had success helping other students pass the certification exam?
- Why did they decide to become a Sterile Processing educator?
And always remember to ask how the instructor intends to help you, specifically you, pass the certification exam. An experienced instructor should provide multiple certifications in the specialty of sterile processing, and should be able to explain how their experience and teaching will help give you better odds of passing the exam.
If your goal is to become a Sterile Processing Technician, then do not pay more than $2,000 for a local training program. Many schools offer lots of extras, but what you really need for certification is:
- To pass the certification exam
- Obtain 400 hands-on hours (if certifying through IAHCSMM, CBSPD does not have this requirement)
Your local program should help you prepare to pass the certification exam and help find you a place to obtain your hands-on hours. And these two things should never cost more than $2,000 combined.
If your ultimate goal is to go further than the Sterile Processing Department (Scrub Technician, Nursing, etc), then choose an accredited college program that offers college credit for taking the sterile processing certification course. This will likely cost you $3,000 or more, but the college credit can be applied to your ultimate goal, so the money will likely pay off in the end.
Sterile Education’s training program includes the full certification prep course and assistance with hands-on placement for only $1195, and this is the cheapest option in the Central California area. It’s actually in our company mission statement to provide quality education to students at the lowest possible pricing.
Speaking of hands-on placement, the CSPDT certification through CBSPD does NOT require any hands-on hours to obtain your full certification. Once you pass the CSPDT exam, you will be fully certified. However, the CRCST certification through IAHCSMM does require you to have 400 hours of hands-on experience before obtaining your full certification. Make sure that your prospective school can help find you a place to get these 400 hours, without any extra cost involved. In the era of COVID-19, this has become more complicated, because hospitals are not taking volunteers or students at the rate that they used to.
Find a school that is as close to home as possible, because no one wants to be traveling for hours per week, just to find a sterile processing certification program. Remember that the program you choose may also only have contacts in that specific area, so make sure that they can help find you hands-on placement hours in your home area before agreeing to travel out of your area. Remember that a local school or program will likely increase your chances of finding work in that area, while traveling outside your area may decrease your odds of finding a local job.
Your sterile processing certification program shouldn’t just be an overview of CRCST manual. It should be a comprehensive program to help prepare you for a successful career in the Sterile Processing Department. They should assist you with resume preparation, applying for positions in Sterile Processing, and what questions to expect during your interview. Your certification class should also be patient focused, and teach how to apply what you are learning in the manual to actual real-world scenarios in the SPD.
Finding the right sterile processing certification program or class can be challenging, but do your homework, and make phone calls to your prospective options before signing up for a program. As an experienced instructor myself, it is my passion for patient care that drives me to teach others, and any instructor should be able to say the same. At Sterile Education, we always put your success and future as a Sterile Processing Technician first. Call us Toll-Free at 888-410-2410 or locally in Fresno at 559-424-0440 to find out more about our patient focused certification classes.