Sterile processing certificate programs train students how to sterilize medical instruments and environments. Surgical technologists, as sterile processing techs are sometimes called, disinfect tools like scissors and needles as well as surgical areas such as operating rooms.
Fully online certificate programs are rare; but it is fairly easy to find a hybrid or blended program that combines both online coursework and campus classroom interaction. Additionally, some hands-on experience is required. Program completion generally takes less than a year.
Prerequisites include fluency in English and a high school diploma or General Education Diploma (GED) certificate. Successful program completion qualifies students to sit for sterile processing technician national examinations.
Information & Requirements
Students need the usual computer set up including word processing and spreadsheet software as well as Internet access to complete online assignments. Campus-based lab participation is also required. Be aware that hands-on lab performance is subject to intense review in the interest of preparing students for certification exams and real world work.
Naturally, mandatory coursework includes classes related to medical instrument control. Procedures for ensuring quality assurance and patient safety are taught in courses like these:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Communications and Interpersonal Skills
- Infection Control Procedures
- Medical Terminology
- Surgical Instrumentation
- Principles of Safety
- Blood Borne Diseases, HIV/AIDS
A sterile processing technician certificate prepares students for a number of pre-surgical and post-op duties. For example, students learn how to use an autoclave to sanitize supplies. Before surgery, they ensure that tools are fully operational. Following surgery, techs ensure that the operating room is adequately scrubbed.
After completing training in sterile processing, graduates may want to pursue professional certification through organizations like the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management. To qualify for the Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) credential, applicants must complete 400 hours of hands-on experience in a lab or healthcare setting (www.iahcsmm.org). They then must take an examination covering topics such as sterilization methods, equipment, inventory management, record keeping and customer relations.