How to Become a Sterile Processing Aide

Learn how to become a sterile processing aide. Research the education and career requirements, certification, and experience required for starting a career as a sterile processing aide.

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Sterile Processing Aide Career Info

Also referred to as medical equipment preparers, sterile processing aides are responsible for sterilizing and cleaning equipment in medical settings. For example, they sterilize surgical instruments, clean machines, and purge waste. Aides may stand for prolonged periods and often must wear protective gear.

Sterile processing aides should have knowledge of infection control procedures, the dexterity necessary to clean instruments, the ability to follow directions, good communication and interpersonal skills, knowledge of medical terminology, and familiarity with different types of sterilizers. These professionals should also be able to lift up to 50 pounds. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that medical equipment preparers earned a median annual salary of $33,330

Degree Level High school diploma; postsecondary certificate programs may be beneficial
Experience 2-5 years related experience preferred by some employers
Licensure and Certification Voluntary certification may be preferred
Key Skills Knowledge of infection control procedures, dexterity to clean instruments, ability to follow directions, good communication and interpersonal skills, knowledge of medical terminology and familiarity with different types of sterilizers; ability to lift up to 50 lbs
Median Salary (2015) $33,330 per year (for medical equipment preparers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (May, 2015)

Gain the Necessary Skills

Sterile processing aides generally do not have any formal education requirements aside from a high school diploma or its equivalent. However, many employers require that applicants have related experience before they are hired as sterile processing aides. A certificate program in medical instrument sterilization can familiarize an individual with sterilization equipment and procedures. It can also introduce the worker to some of the job duties of sterile processing aides, such as using sterilization equipment, arranging instruments on surgical trays, and repackaging sterilized instruments.

Some programs may offer students an opportunity to participate in a field experience. This offers prospective sterile processing aides an opportunity to work in the field and learn under an experienced aide.

Gain Employment

Sterile processing aides work in clinical settings, such as hospitals, where they track inventory and sterilize equipment. They order, restock, sort, and repackage equipment and instruments. Sterile processing aides check to make sure that all equipment functions properly and report any issues, such as defects or malfunctions. Sterile processing aides play an important role in maintaining a safe environment for patients; they keep an eye out for any safety concerns or errors.

Earn Certification

The Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) offers certification for sterile processing aides. Those who wish to become certified must complete a course of study and then pass an examination. The course may be completed online or in person, or an applicant may purchase study materials and study for the exam independently. The CBSPD requires that certification be renewed every five years. Recertification can be earned by working full-time and completing continuing education courses.

Medical equipment preparers might find work with just a high school diploma and on-the-job training, but others might want to complete some postsecondary education and even earn certification to get ahead in the field.

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