Manhattan Health Education School - Swedish Institute - New York, NY

Breaking Into the Healthcare Field of Sterile Processing

Central Sterile Processing Technician in action

Are you looking for a way to get into the growing healthcare field but aren’t sure you want to be on the frontline? One of the fastest-growing jobs in healthcare right now is the Central Service Processing Technician, and Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences has just launched a brand new Central Sterile Processing Technician program in response to the growing demand for trained CSPTs in the Greater New York City area.

What is Sterile Processing?

A typical hospital uses (and reuses) tens of thousands of medical instruments every month. Although some supplies are disposable, many are not. The reusable supplies come with their own special instructions for proper cleaning and maintenance.

The Central Service department of a health care facility is the hub of all activity surrounding supplies and equipment needed for surgery and patient care. Before any patient undergoes any medical procedure, there’s a team of people working behind the scenes to minimize any risk of a potentially life-threatening infection. Sterile processing technicians are responsible for cleaning, sterilizing, and preparing the instruments and medical equipment used during any operation, from routine procedures to emergency trauma surgery.

What Does a CSPT Do? 

Central Sterile Processing Technicians (CSPTs), also called central service technicians or central supply technicians, are a critical part of infection control in any hospital or clinical environment. CSPTs ensure surgical instruments and other medical equipment are properly cleaned, sterilized, inventoried, and maintained. However, as opposed to surgical technologists, sterile processing techs tend to work in equipment-processing or central supply departments, which means they’re not usually present during an actual operation.

What are the Main Responsibilities of a Sterile Processing Technician? 

Sterile Processing Technicians work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, medical offices, surgical centers, and clinics. They often rotate through different areas of the Central Service Department and have various duties such as:

  • Inspect, test, sterilize, decontaminate, process, store, and deliver medical equipment and devices needed for surgery
  • Organize and assemble instrument trays, ensuring that each instrument is in good working order before placing it in the tray for use
  • Operate and maintain special decontamination equipment like steam autoclaves, sterilizers, aerators, and washers
  • Record sterilizer test results, keep records of loads complete, items in loads, and maintenance procedures performed
  • Examine equipment to detect leaks, worn or loose parts, or other indications of disrepair
  • Verify and accurately document missing instruments
  • Maintaining records and inventory
  • Make recommendations to management for possible improvement
  • Effectively communicate with operating room personnel and others.

What Training Do I Need to Become a CSPT? 

The standard path to starting a career as a sterile processing tech is completing a Sterile Processing program from an accredited college or university and then passing the Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) exam.

When looking at programs, it is important to consider several factors, including the school’s reputation, whether the program includes a clinical component, and if the program prepares you for certification.

Clinical Curriculum

The CSPT program at Swedish Institute is designed to teach you the approved practices and skill sets that healthcare employers require through a combination of didactic courses as well as supervised clinical experience. Our 900-hour program includes a mandatory 420-hour clinical externship, which offers students supervised practical work experience in a real-work sterile processing environment.

Unlike many of the online programs out there, our program includes clinical rotations that offer students the hands-on experience required to become certified in this field,” explains Kevin Arteaga, MHA, CST, Dean of the Surgical Technology and Sterile Processing programs at Swedish Institute. “Because of our existing relationships with various healthcare centers and hospitals in the area, and having a dedicated clinical site coordinator, this is one of the main benefits of our program at Swedish Institute.”

Length of Program & Diploma 

While some sterile processing programs can take up to two years to complete, the CSPT program at Swedish Institute is designed to be completed in as little as 9 months. Upon successful completion of the didactic and laboratory courses, and the mandatory 420-hour clinical externship, graduates are awarded a certificate authorized by the New York State Board of Regents. Graduates are then eligible to sit for the Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) exam to ultimately get hired at a hospital, surgery center, clinic, or other healthcare facility.

Accreditation & Certification 

Swedish Institute, established in 1916, is institutionally accredited by the ACCSC and offers degree and certificate programs in Nursing, Massage Therapy, Surgical Technology, Medical Assisting, and Medical Billing and Coding in addition to Sterile Processing. Our Central Service Processing Technician program meets the requirements of the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM). As a result, graduates of the Central Service Processing Technician program are eligible to sit for the Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) examination issued by the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materials Management (IAHCSMM). Passing this exam is required to work as a CSPT in many states, including New York and New Jersey.

The Central Sterile Processing department is the river of life in relation to the services provided by the operating room,” explains Dr. Joseph Balatbat, Director of Education at Swedish Institute. “We are humbled to be a part of the educational experience for the future providers in the healthcare ecosystem. Our students will leave the program feeling competent and well-rehearsed to consistently provide the critical duties necessary for all the healthcare departments serviced“.

What is the Job Outlook?

As surgeries and medical procedures have become more widespread, the proper sterilization and care of medical instruments and equipment are crucial. According to the latest national data from the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the number of actively employed sterile processing technicians (medical equipment preparers) is projected to increase by 6% by 2030. Your salary may vary based on experience, location of employment, and the specific job title and duties being performed. In the state of New York, for example, the median pay is $41,670.*

Ready to start your career as a Sterile Processing Technician? 

Sterile processing technicians are the unsung heroes of the healthcare profession, working vigilantly behind the scenes to keep everything from surgical instruments to high-tech equipment safe, sterile, and ready for use by doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. If you are looking for a rewarding career where you can make a difference in patient care, becoming a sterile processing technician could be your career choice! Click here to learn more about the Sterile Processing program at Swedish Institute, and start taking the first step toward your brand-new career today!