How To Become A Sterile Processing Technician in Nebraska
It’s not something one usually thinks about: how do the tools and equipment our doctors and nurses use to treat and diagnose us get cleaned and sterilized? These items need to be spotlessly clean and completely sterile, meaning that they are unable to transmit infection between patients or from caregivers. Sterile processing technicians are the highly skilled specialists that do this work, and they are in demand in healthcare settings everywhere, including in Nebraska.
Requirements for Becoming a Sterile Processing Technician in Nebraska
Nebraska’s department of public health does not certify or supervise sterile processing technicians, but any reputable employer will require that you carry certification from a major national certifying body. The most widely accepted certification is the Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) award from the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management – an international body that represents, tests and sets standards for sterile processing techs.
The certification requires two steps: passing an exam, which costs $125 and is taken at a testing center in your area, and 400 work experience hours. This experience can be obtained through a training program or apprenticeship, hours on the job or a combination of the two. Specific numbers of hours of work experience in various areas of the field are required:
- 120 hours decontamination experience
- 16 hours equipment maintenance
- 120 hours equipment packaging and preparation experience
- 24 hours experience in quality assurance and processing
- 96 hours experience in disinfection and sterilization
- 24 experience hours in storage and distribution
The exam is a proctored test taken in person, not online. Once you’ve obtained your certification, you’ll need to re-register annually and show that you’ve completed a few hours of continuing professional education. You can also improve your employability by obtaining advanced certifications such as endoscope processing, instrumentation or managing a sterile processing department.
Although you’re unlikely to have much direct patient contact, sterile processing techs work with precision equipment in a healthcare setting, so you’ll usually need to be at least 18 years old and have a high school or general equivalency diploma. You also may need to be able to pass a criminal background check and a drug screen, and to have your vaccinations up to date.
Training Programs for Sterile Processing Technicians in Nebraska
Here are a few examples of training courses and programs for sterile processing technicians in Nebraska:
- Nebraska Methodist College is based in Omaha and offers an online-based, six-week course that involves hands-on clinical experience at Methodist Hospital. The course prepares students for the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) exam.
- Southeast Community College is based in Lincoln and offers a course that prepares students for an entry- level career as a sterile processing technician. Financial aid is available.
- MedCerts has an online sterile processing course designed for people with existing work and educational commitments. It prepares you for the CRCST exam and can help place you at a local clinical facility for your work experience.
Job Outlook and Salary Expectations
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in Nebraska the average annual salary for sterile processing technicians is about $36,000, with high-earning senior techs receiving about $48,000 per year.
Nationally, the number of jobs available for sterile processing techs is expected to grow by eight percent by 2028.
Working as a Sterile Processing Technician in Nebraska
Unusual for jobs in the medical field, sterile processing techs generally benefit from predictable, daytime hours, but some evening and weekend work can be required if there is a surge in surgical procedures. The work can be physically demanding, with lots of standing, carrying and lifting as well as exacting hand and visual work. There is a significant paperwork and compliance requirement for the role, and surprise and scheduled inspections are common. Available roles at hospitals, clinics and diagnostic facilities are often advertised on major job sites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter and Monster.