Becoming a Sterile Processing Technician in Alabama
If you are interested in a career in healthcare that doesn’t require you to spend a lot of time in medical school, then you may want to consider working as a sterile processing technician.
Sterile processing techs have an essential role within the healthcare system. They are responsible for preparing, cleaning and sterilizing medical equipment. They may also perform some laboratory work and inspect or operate medical equipment. A sterile processing technician may also be known as a central service technician, central processing technician or a medical equipment preparer.
Requirements to Become a Sterile Processing Technician in Alabama
Most states, including Alabama, do not have any specific educational or licensing requirements to work as a sterile processing technician. Employers are usually the ones who set the conditions for this profession. In most cases, you will need at least a high school diploma or GED as well as work experience or a two-year degree. Some places may hire someone without experience and train them on the job, but having an associate or technical degree in a health-related field or having some work experience will help give you an advantage over other potential employees.
Alabama Training Programs for Sterile Processing
Here are a couple of the training options available to you in Alabama:
- Jefferson State Community College. The program at Jefferson State gives students an overview of working in the sterile processing field and teaches the skills needed to succeed in this career, including sterile processing, infection control, the aseptic technique and inventory management. Students will complete a clinical rotation consisting of 103 clinical hours during the last four weeks of the program. Students who complete the program will receive a certificate of completion and be eligible to take the national certification examination. This program is offered at the Jefferson and Shelby-Hoover campuses, both in Birmingham.
- Southern Union State Community College. This program trains students in specialty procedures, quality assurance, equipment storage, sterilization procedures and inventory management. Four hundred hours of hands-on experience must be completed during the program or within six months of completing the program. Students will receive an achievement award and be able to take the exam to get the national certification. This program can be completed in 10 to 15 weeks.
National Certification for Sterile Processing Technicians
It isn’t mandatory to become a certified sterile processing technician. However, there are certification benefits including more job opportunities and higher pay.
The International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management is the standard credentialing organization for central service, or sterile, processing. They offer five certification levels including entry-level, secondary instrumentation certification, endoscope reprocessing certification, central service management, secondary certification and central service vendor certification.
To obtain certification, you must apply and pay the application fee. Once you have been deemed eligible to take the examination, you can take it online at a Prometric testing center. You will be notified after taking the exam if you pass or fail. If you pass the exam, you will receive your certification within two weeks, and it will need to be renewed annually.
Job and Salary Outlook in Alabama
While job openings in this career are growing at a national rate of 8 percent, the growth is just slightly higher in the state of Alabama at 8.8 percent. At least 140 job opportunities are expected to become available in this field in Alabama over the next few years.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean salary for medical equipment preparers is $29,820, or $14.34 hourly. Entry-level sterile processing techs may make slightly less than this. However, the top earners in the state make as much as $39,330 annually.
Working as a Sterile Processing Technician in Alabama
Sterile processing technicians can be found working in hospitals, surgical centers, outpatient care centers, doctors’ offices and dental offices. Jobs may be easier to find in the higher populated cities like Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery.
Some of the typical healthcare facilities to work as a sterile processing tech in Alabama are St. Vincent’s Health System, Grandview Medical Center, Lexington Medical Center and Infirmary Health.