Certifiable Expertise:  Building a Career on Knowledge

Arlene L. Bush CRCST, CER, CIS  

If you have chosen a career in sterile processing, then you must know that your work can have a huge impact on patients that you will never get the chance to see. Due to its importance, sterile processing is an area in hospitals where the technicians must stay current on reprocessing standards, best practices and IFU’s (Instructions For Use). And staying current amid rapidly advancing technologies often requires a higher level of understanding and performance.

Hospitals across the nation are increasingly seeing value in the certifiable competency of the employees who are reprocessing medical devices. Encouraging technicians to be certified in sterile processing is becoming the new standard for hospitals across the country. And in fact, certification for sterile processing technicians is currently required in four states– New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Tennessee. Other states will most likely follow suit with this practice and require certification as well.   

Becoming certified is the start of the professional career ladder for many in this field.  By obtaining your certification, you can begin to understand all that’s needed to render an item safe to use. Truly understanding the process behind cleaning and reprocessing medical devices is critical to deliver safe patient outcomes. A few skipped steps on the front end can lead to very real patient harm on the other end.   

Knowing why processes are in place and how to react if the process is not followed is the best way to prevent problems. The knowledge and confidence that comes with certification is a step in the right direction to prevent harm from ever happening to any patient. Having confidence in the job you are doing, and your ability to prevent medical errors is the expectation all healthcare workers must live up to everyday.

Leadership must empower staff to believe certifications are desirable and achievable. Leaders also need to set the example for non-certified technicians. Creating skilled technicians doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time. Leaders need to be patient yet steadfast when it comes to training non-certified technicians. After all, on-the-job training has been the normal path to certification for some time in sterile processing and there are very few opportunities to learn outside of doing the work. 

The training and education that are acknowledged by certification are key in this ever changing industry.  Sterile processing technicians must be willing adopt new best practices and stay current on effectively handling new instruments. Certification provides a basis for establishing a rewarding career in health care.

This article was originally published in ReadySet Review, a newsletter intended to help educate Surgical Service Professionals on important, topical issues.  The views and opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of ReadySet Surgical.