How to Become a Sterile Processing Technician in Washington State
Sterile processing technicians work in the background, but they are on the front lines of any hospital’s infection control plan. The essential work they do involves receiving the soiled equipment used in medical procedures to decontaminate and sterilize it before re-use. If you have been considering this vital career, you may want to know a little bit more about what these techs do and how to become one.
Working as a sterile processing technician means having a sharp eye for detail, a meticulous nature and good physical stamina. In fact, technicians spend a great deal of time standing, walking and lifting equipment. Clerical work and inventory control are other important aspects of the day-to-day work in this career.
Sterile Processing Technicians and Licensing in Washington
The state of Washington does not require sterile processing technicians to be licensed to work, nor is there a statewide oversight committee for the profession. However, those entering the career should know that a central processing department faces nearly constant scrutiny through both internal and external reviews. This supervision is necessary because of the essential nature of ensuring the equipment they work with is properly cleaned and sterilized.
Washington Training Programs for Sterile Processing Technicians
Sterile processing technicians generally train in one of two ways: on-the-job or through a reputable training program. With either choice, a high school diploma or equivalent will be necessary prior to beginning training. In Washington, there are several programs through which you can acquire training. These include:
- Columbia Basin College in Pasco offers a Healthcare Central Service Technology program. Students will be trained to decontaminate and sterilize surgical instruments and medical equipment.
- Bellingham Technical College in Bellingham, WA, offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Surgery Technology. Surgical technologists learn to provide assistance in the operating room as well as how to properly clean and sterilize equipment. See also https://surgicaltechedu.org/ga/
- Clover Park Technical College, with campuses in Lakewood and Puyallup, WA, offers a Central Service/Sterile Processing program. Students will be prepared to provide the sterile equipment and supplies needed for surgery.
- Renton Technical College in Renton offers a Surgical Technologist program. Students will learn the basics of endoscopy, labor and delivery and sterile processing.
Credentialing for Sterile Processing Technicians
Although there is no universal certification requirement for sterile processing technicians, attaining credentialing is highly recommended for those wishing to expand their career prospects. In addition, many organizations will require accreditation for potential and current employees, so acquiring a certification can increase your employability.
As there are many organizations through which you can seek accreditation, you may wish to research the preferences of the organizations where you hope to become employed.
Wages for Sterile Processing Technicians in Washington State
Sterile processing technicians in Washington enjoy above-average wages, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reporting an average annual salary of $40,200 in 2019. In comparison, the average salary nationally was $39,530 in the same year.
Although the BLS reports that most sterile processing technicians work in hospitals and dentists’ offices, technicians who work for technical consulting companies and wholesale electronic markets make the highest wages.
Opportunities for Career Advancement in Washington
With organizations like the University of Washington, Swedish Health Services, Skagit Regional Health, UW Medical, Virginia Mason and Kaiser Permanente recruiting for and hiring sterile processing technicians, those in the field should find plenty of employment in Washington State. In fact, the outlook for the career is highly positive, with Projections Central predicting a whopping 20.7 percent growth rate in the next 10 years. This data translates to an additional 280 new jobs being created, leading to a lot of opportunities for trained technicians.