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Sterile Processing Technician Vs Surgical Technologist Differences

Sterile processing technicians and surgical technologists both assist with medical procedures, but in different ways. Here you can find more information on these careers, along with salary and growth information.

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Comparing Sterile Processing Technician to Surgical Technologist

Sterile processing technicians and surgical technologists both help to prepare a successful surgery for patients, however their responsibilities differ. Sterile processing technicians are responsible for sterilizing all equipment that is to be used for medical procedures while surgical technologists assist the surgeon in a procedure. Learn more about how these medical assistants relate and differ.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Sterile Processing Technician Certification $34,400 (for medical equipment preparers) 14% (for medical equipment preparers)
Surgical Technologist Postsecondary Certificate or Associate's Degree $45,160 15%

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Sterile Processing Technicians vs Surgical Technologists

Sterile processing technicians and surgical technologists do complete some of the same tasks such as ensuring medical equipment and supplies are ready for a surgery. Typically technologists take it a step further and actually assist with surgeries by handling the medical supplies needed for the surgery. Both professions require knowledge of medical tools and certification in how to properly take care of the equipment used. The main difference between these two career options is that sterile processing technicians normally do their work outside of the operating room before and after surgeries, while surgical technologists can help assist in the operating room with various tasks.

Sterile Processing Technician

Sterile processing technicians are responsible for preparing and managing medical equipment that is used for medical procedures. They must understand how tools work so they ensure that they are working correctly for the procedure. These technicians work with a team and also may need to interact with patients, so they must have excellent communication skills. They are seen mostly in hospitals where they may work long and irregular hours.

Job responsibilities of a sterile processing technician include:

  • Arranging surgical equipment in operating room
  • Ensuring area being used is sterilized
  • Transporting supplies needed for surgeries
  • Decontaminating equipment and tools used after a surgery
  • Perform routine inspections on medical equipment for defects

Surgical Technologist

While surgical technologists check over supplies and equipment to ensure they are sterilized and safe to use, they also work with surgeons in the operating room. They are responsible for handling equipment and tools, as well as giving them to the surgeon when needed. To work in this position, a person must be able to stand for long periods of time, pay attention at all times, and be able to control their stress levels because working in an operating room can be very demanding.

Job responsibilities of a surgical technologist include:

  • Keeping track of tools and supplies
  • Preparing patients for surgery
  • Handling and storing specimens that need further analysis
  • Transporting patients to their recovery room
  • Restock operating room after the procedure

Related Careers

Individuals interested in a career as a sterile processing technician may like a position as a licensed practical nurse where they would be working in the medical field, but take on a role that is more involved with patient care. Those looking into a career as a surgical technologist may be interested in a position as a registered nurse to work closely with patients.

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