Pros and Cons of a Career as a Sterile Supply Technician
Sterile supply technicians sterilize, prepare and install medical equipment. Check out the following pros and cons to learn more.
|PROS of Becoming a Sterile Supply Technician|
|Some employers require only a high school diploma*|
|On-the-job training can be completed in six months*|
|Stable full-time work schedule*|
|Can lead to a job as a medical equipment repairer*|
|CONS of Becoming a Sterile Supply Technician|
|Low pay (mean annual wage of about $33,000 as of May 2014)**|
|Some risk of contracting diseases*|
|Mistakes could cause patient or staff injuries*|
|Work shifts involve long periods of time on your feet*|
Sources: *ISEEK, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Description and Duties
Sterile supply technicians are also known as medical equipment preparers or central service technicians. Your main job duty in this career is to operate ultrasound, gas or chemical sterilizers used to prepare medical equipment for reuse in such settings as operating rooms and laboratories. You'll also be responsible for checking equipment conditions and keeping track of supply inventory. It's your duty to maintain the sterilization equipment and run routine tests to ensure it's functioning properly as well. You might also arrange equipment on crash carts and surgical trays.
As a sterile supply technician, you could work in a hospital, dentist's office, doctor's office, outpatient center or other medical facility. There is some risk of exposure to disease and hazardous medical equipment. However, practicing standard safety procedures and using protective gear can minimize your risks of injury or illness.
Job Growth and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 14% increase in employment opportunities for sterile supply technicians from 2014-2024, which was an average job growth for all occupations. As of May 2014, most of these professionals earned salaries ranging from around $22,000 to $47,000. The top paying industry was the management of companies and enterprises with a mean annual wage of just about $48,000. Also included among the top-paying industries were the federal government; architectural and engineering services; outpatient care centers; and specialty hospitals (except for psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals).
Career Skills and Requirements
Education and Training
Some employers accept job applicants with a high school diploma. Once you're hired, you'll go through an on-the-job training period that can last around six months. However, other employers look for applicants who've received formal training, in which case you might want to consider enrolling in a sterile processing course or certificate program to learn about such topics as infection control and microbiology.
A few employers require professional certification. These credentials are available through organizations such as the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD). Its Certified Sterile Processing and Distribution Technician designation is available to applicants who pass a written exam after meeting eligibility requirements. These include a year of full-time employment or its part-time equivalent. Candidates who've completed six months of work experience and an allied health program in a related field can also qualify, as can those who've completed a central service training course. Certification is valid for five years, after which you must complete continuing education to maintain your credentials.
The International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM) also offers professional certification. You'll need 400 hours of work experience and passing scores on a written exam to earn its Certified Registered Central Service Technician credential.
Whether you enroll in a formal training program or learn how to perform a sterile processing technician's job duties after finding employment, look for opportunities to develop the following traits:
- Communication skills to report safety issues
- The ability to work under stress
- Organizational skills to keep track of sterilization tests and instrument use
- A knowledge of supply chain management software
- Mechanical aptitude to work with sterilizers and aerators
Job Postings from Real Employers
According to April 2012 job postings, employers were looking for technicians who had some experience in the medical field. They also wanted individuals with good interpersonal skills and the ability to work as part of a team. Other employment qualifications are listed in the sample job posts below:
- A hospital in New Jersey was seeking a central sterile supply technician with a high school diploma, computer skills and certification in sterile processing. Applicants with at least six months of related work experience were preferred.
- A healthcare service company in Indiana wanted to hire a central sterile supply technician who had earned professional certification or completed a formal training course. Those with work experience were preferred.
- A Tennessee medical service company was hiring a sterile processing technician with a combined two years of education and experience.
- A medical center in Oregon was looking for a sterile processing technician with a high school diploma and one year of experience. Preferred applicants would have completed a formal training program and earned professional certification.
How to Maximize Your Skills
While you could qualify for some positions without certification, you might want to consider earning one of these credentials to get an advantage over other job applicants. According to recent job posts, employers sometimes prefer to hire applicants who're certified, even if it's not a prerequisite for employment. Additionally, the certification process could help you keep up with changes to health care technology, according to the IAHCSMM.
Other Careers to Consider
The earnings for a sterile supply technician are lower than average for all occupations, according to the BLS. So if you're second-guessing this career choice, you might want to consider the following alternatives. Not only do they pay more than a career as a sterile supply technician, they also have comparable employment outlooks.
If you'd like a career that includes more patient care responsibilities, such as passing instruments to surgeons and preparing patients for surgical procedures, consider becoming a surgical technologist. You'll more than likely need to complete a certificate or associate degree program to qualify for a job, but you could earn a mean annual wage of around $42,000. Moreover, the BLS forecasted a 19% employment growth for this field over the 2010-2020 decade.
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technician
If you'd be more interested in using medical equipment than preparing it for other health care personnel, consider training for this career. As a laboratory technician, you could collect such specimens as blood and tissue samples and perform laboratory tests. However, an associate degree or certificate is usually required to enter the field, and some states require licensing or registration. The BLS reported that the mean annual wage for these professionals was approximately $39,000 as of May 2011. Employment opportunities were expected to grow 15% over the reporting decade.