How to Become a Sterile Processing Technician in Pennsylvania
Sterile processing technicians clean, sterilize and re-package reusable medical equipment, making sure that it is safe and sanitary for its next use and keeping clinicians and patients safe. This role is vital to the efficiency and safety of modern healthcare and is a great way to get involved in the industry without having to obtain an advanced postgraduate degree. As healthcare is a growing field, sterile processing technicians will find their services in demand and decently compensated.
Requirements for Becoming a Sterile Processing Technician in Pennsylvania
Like the majority of U.S. states, Pennsylvania does not certify, register or regulate sterile processing technicians. Employers, however, will require technicians to have undertaken specialized training or to have significant experience in the field. In order to be competitive when applying, you should hold the Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) certification, awarded by the Healthcare Sterile Processing Association (HSPA), which sets a global standard for sterile processing technicians.
The certification requires proving that you’ve had 400 hours of experience in specific tasks in the field, obtained through lab hours during your training program or during an apprenticeship within the past five years. Task experience hours requirements include 16 hours in equipment use, 24 hours in quality assurance, 24 hours in distribution and storage, 96 hours in disinfection and sterilization, 120 hours in preparing and packaging equipment, and 120 hours in decontamination. You will also need to pass an exam. This costs $125 and takes place in a testing center.
Once you’ve been certified, you must take continuing education hours annually to keep up with the latest in this highly technical field. You can also increase your skills and knowledge through specializations, for which certifications are available. These include instrumentation, processing endoscopes and managing a sterile processing department. Each of these certifications has its own experience requirements and exam.
Healthcare settings involve working with confidential data and delicate machinery, so you’ll need to be over 18 years of age with a high school or general equivalency diploma to work in the field. You’ll also need to have reasonable physical fitness and, in some workplaces, be able to pass drug screenings and criminal background checks.
Training for Sterile Processing Technicians in Pennsylvania
Aspiring sterile processing technicians benefit from a variety of options for training within Pennsylvania. Here are a few examples:
- Based in Philadelphia, Aseptic Technical Solutions offers in-person and live virtual options for its technical certificate in sterile processing. It also offers a self-paced virtual option that is suitable for people already in the field who wish to become certified. All courses prepare the learner to take the CRCST certification exam, and the in-person course will help place you in an externship to obtain the necessary work experience hours.
- Also based in Philadelphia, Central Source SPD offers a 16-week course that prepares students for the CRCST exam. With deeply experienced instructors and strong connections with area hospitals, the program also can assist you with finding an externship.
- Based in Pittsburgh, Community College of Allegheny County offers a sterile processing technician program that can be completed in one semester. The program includes everything from techniques to record keeping. The program includes clinical experience in area hospitals and prepares you for the CRCST exam.
Job Outlook and Salary Expectations
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average annual salary of about $35,000 for sterile processing techs – a little lower than the national average.
The number of jobs available for sterile processing technicians in Pennsylvania is projected to grow by 8 percent nationally by 2028.
Working as a Sterile Processing Technician in Pennsylvania
Unlike many jobs in healthcare, sterile processing technicians benefit from regular and predictable hours. The work is meticulous and exacting, and there are many steps to each process that must be completed in a precise manner. Work is often completed standing, and you’ll need to be able to lift and carry heavy equipment.