What Is Sterile Processing?

4 min read

The sterile processing is a process of sterilization that takes place in a designated area in the hospital or any care-giving facility. This area is also known as the Central Sterile Services Department (CSSD). In the 1940s, medical supplies and devices were cleaned and prepared for use in the same room where patients received care. Upon realizing that it was difficult to manage proper cleaning and processing of equipment under this system, a separate department was proposed for this practice. 

Also, bearing in mind the expansion of medical supplies which included various surgical procedures and devices that require special care, the best solution to upkeep the highest standard of sterilization was to designate a centralized unit in which individuals could dedicate their best to efficiency and health safety.

How does the process function?

Once a tray of reusable equipment is passed on to the sterile processing department, it typically undergoes four stages: decontamination, assembly and sterile processing, sterile storage and distribution. Each of these stages has subsets of procedures that ensure the process of cleaning and completely eliminating germs and bacteria is sufficiently executed.

Precisely, decontamination procedure employs mechanical means of cleaning by using chemical disinfection for reusable instruments and supplies. This is followed by the assembly stage in which clean items are forwarded for packaging and prepared for issuance. In this area, the equipment can either be processed and stored, issued for use or kept for further processing. Once the equipment has passed the decontamination and assembly areas, it is transferred to the storage unit in which they are kept until further notice.

Lastly, the distribution center handles tray or cart preparation, delivery, inventory, and replenishment. Technicians also manage phone orders, requisition logs and dispatch delivery to patient care rooms.

What does a Sterile Processing Technician do?

A Sterile Processing Technician is dedicated to the decontamination of hospital facilities. He/she is responsible for the preparation of medical supplies and devices. As a sterile processing technician, you are tasked with sterilizing medical equipment by running it through a series of complex procedures. By ensuring the supplies and utensils are thoroughly sterilized you contribute to patient safety. 

You understand your level of responsibility and the risk in under-performing. There are a number of fatal infections that can be caused from using contaminated supplies. Infectious diseases can easily be passed from one subject to another through contact or unclean medical supplies.

How do you become a Sterile Technician?

Becoming a Sterile Technician is an attainable prospect without needing years of schooling. You can get started fresh out of school after taking the sterile processing exam. The requirements for acceptance at the most is a high school diploma or equivalent. Once you’ve taken up this course from a reputable and certified institute, you will learn a great deal of lab related activities including the following:

  • The entire process of sterilizing instruments, broken down into critical steps sequenced in order
  • Microbiology and how it pertains to sterilization of instrumentation
  • Decontamination
  • Practices and theory relating to infection control
  • Medical instrumentation, their use and how to distribute equipment to doctors and nurses
  • Responsibly processing given tasks

Career Opportunities

The classes taken as part of the Sterile Processing course will prepare you to work in various settings such as hospitals, clinics, surgery rooms, third party reprocessors, labs etc. Basically, once you start working as a technician you’ll frequent many surgery related areas and get to witness tasks that many medical professions do not.

Typically, on duty you’d be responsibly handling your time cleaning, disinfecting and distributing sterilized equipment to delivery and labor rooms, intensive care, operating theater and other facilities. You’ll find employment in hospitals, dental clinics, eye care clinics, surgery centers and laboratories.

Medical sterile technicians form a very important aspect of the healthcare industry and are directly responsible for patient safety that’s within their capacity. As a technician, you’ll be needed anywhere including hospitals, clinics and outpatient care centers. Basically, wherever there’s a patient, there is a need for a sterile processor. 

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