Pros and Cons of a Medical Equipment Preparer Career
Because they are in-demand anywhere there are medical facilities, medical equipment preparers can work in many geographical locations. Check out the pros and cons of a medical equipment preparer career to decide if it's the right choice for you.
|Pros of Being a Medical Equipment Preparer|
|Jobs may only require a high school diploma*|
|Variety of work settings available, including dentist offices, hospitals and colleges**|
|On-the-job training typically available*|
|Work includes improving patient care*|
|Cons of Being a Medical Equipment Preparer|
|Low Pay ($32,260 median salary in 2014)**|
|Work can be physically demanding and usually requires standing for long periods of time|
|Some physical risk when exposed to toxic cleaning agents and contaminated instruments*|
|Requires daily performance of the same physical tasks*|
Sources: *ISEEK.org, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Essential Career Info
Job Description and Duties
Medical equipment preparers, also called 'central processing technicians' or 'sterile processing technicians', prevent the spread of germs and bacteria in operating and exam rooms by using various sterilization methods on medical instruments and equipment. This can include using potentially dangerous gas and chemical sterilizers. As a medical equipment preparer, you may also be responsible for delivering and installing medical equipment, such as hospital beds and respirators, maintaining supply inventories and keeping records of sterilizer test results. Preparers work in various healthcare facilities, including hospitals, colleges, dentist offices and outpatient care centers.
Because there are little education requirements for medical equipment preparers, these individuals don't tend to earn very high salaries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the 2014 median annual salary for medical equipment preparers was around $32,260, with the highest-paid preparers earning about $47,000 (www.bls.gov).
What Are the Requirements?
A high school diploma or GED is the standard education requirement for medical equipment preparers. Most positions are entry-level jobs with on-the-job training offered by employers. To perform their job duties, preparers must also have:
- Manual dexterity
- An attention to detail
- Knowledge of the mechanics of specific equipment
- An awareness of the uses and interactions of chemicals
- Knowledge of public safety procedures
- Steadiness in their arms and hands
Job Postings from Real Employers
The majority of job listings for medical equipment preparers are posted by hospitals. This is because, as of 2011, hospitals employed over half of all medical equipment preparers. Many job postings tend to list the skills, experience, certification and education that ideal candidates should possess. Here are a few examples of jobs postings found in May 2012:
- A Wisconsin hospital advertised for a part-time central processing technician with strong knowledge of the uses of surgical instruments and sterilizing equipment, including ethylene oxide steam autoclaves. Medical work experience and the completion of a central service technician course were preferred.
- A medical center in Texas sought a candidate with a high school diploma or GED and one year of related work experience. Job duties included cleaning, storing and assembling operating room instruments. The employer preferred candidates with professional certification.
- A research hospital in Missouri looked for a sterile processing technician having basic computer skills, and who could communicate objectively and prioritize. The technician needed a high school diploma and 6-12 months of related work experience.
- A Virginia hospital sought a candidate with two years of work experience and the ability to receive certification within one year of employment. The candidate needed to have a strong understanding of medical terminology and the specific needs of patients depending on their age. Other qualifications included the ability to work independently and efficiently in a fast-paced and high-stress environment.
How Can I Stand Out?
You can set yourself apart from other job applicants by becoming certified by the Certification Board of Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) or the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materials Management (IAHCSMM). You must pass an exam to become certified by either organization. The CSPD allows medical equipment preparers with one year of related work experience to take its certification exam. Alternatively, you can become eligible for both the CBSPD and IAHCSM certification exams by completing a training program.
Universities, community colleges and technical schools offer central sterile processing certificate programs that can be completed in as little as one semester. These programs prepare aspiring medical equipment preparers to work in the field by teaching topics such as medical terminology, microbiology, human anatomy, sterilization procedures and infection control. Having completing a certificate program may make you more appealing to employers than an individual who only possesses a GED or high school diploma.
Other Careers to Consider
If becoming a medical equipment preparer doesn't interest you, there are other careers that allow you to play a supporting role in the medical field, including surgical technology. As a surgical technologist, you gather equipment for surgery, prepare patients for surgery and hand surgeons instruments during operations. According to the BLS, in 2011 surgical technologists earned higher salaries than medical equipment preparers, about $41,000 per year. However, to work in the field you need an associate's degree or certificate from a vocational school or community college.
Medical Equipment Repairer
Alternatively, you could become a medical equipment repairer. In this position you test, repair and maintain medical equipment. Most repairer positions require at least an associate's degree, but those working with complicated machinery, such as medical imaging equipment, may need a bachelor's degree. The BLS reports the May 2011 median annual salary for medical equipment repairers at about $45,000.
Medical Device Sales Representative
As a medical device sales representative, you work for a manufacturing company selling medical instruments and equipment to hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Sales representatives often travel extensively and work irregular hours. You need a bachelor's degree in a technical or scientific field, such as engineering or biology, to work in this field. Although the education requirements are higher for sales representatives than for medical equipment preparers, according to the BLS, sales representatives in general, including in fields other than medical device sales, earned considerably higher salaries in May 2011, making around $75,000 per year.