An instrument technician, also known as a sterile processing technician and central services technician, ensures that surgical instruments are sterile and ready for the surgeon prior to operations and medical procedures. Associate's degree programs in surgical technology incorporate the job of instrument technician along with other related careers. In doing so, programs give the aspiring technician not only the skills required to perform his or her duties, but also a sense of how those tasks relate to the jobs of those they work with and for.
There are also certification programs to enhance the technician's knowledge base and resume. Graduates can apply for certification at several levels from the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management, which requires passing competency exams.
Prerequisites for an associate's degree program includes a high school diploma or GED and a minimum GPA of 2.0. Certificate-level applicants may be required to take a drug screening and a background check.
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Associate's Degree in Surgical Technology
This is a 2-year program at most schools. It is recommended that in high school the student lean towards an emphasis in math, science and biology courses. Some schools may require a full year of general education courses prior to declaring the surgical technology major.
Students are trained in laboratory technology and the sterile processing of instruments. Some programs have a clinical component. Classes focus on subjects such as:
- Medical terminology basics
- Culture and language of healthcare
- Lab technology
- Medical law and ethics
- Disease and pathology
Certificates in Surgical Instruments/Sterile Instrument Technology
Several accredited schools and institutions offer surgical instrument technician and sterile instrument technician courses and certification. Courses for this certification focus directly on the specific tasks an instrument technician will perform, such as:
- Departmental safety operations
- Surgical instrument selection
- Instrument density and weight
- Instrument stain management
- Sterile processing for surgical robotic mechanisms
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a 15% increase in jobs for surgical technologists in the 2014-2024 period, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations. Surgical technologists made an average salary of $45,940 in 2015, according to the BLS. The majority of these workers were employed in hospitals.
Aspiring instrument technicians can pursue their education at the certificate and associate's degree level. Both programs prepare students to work in laboratories and understand the sterile processing of instruments.