What does a sterile processing technician do?

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What is a Sterile Processing Technician?

Sterile processing technicians are part of an operations team in a healthcare setting. They are responsible for cleaning, sterilizing, and preparing the medical equipment and instruments used during surgery and other medical procedures. It is thanks in large part to their work that the risk of a potentially life-threatening infection during an operation is minimized.

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What does a Sterile Processing Technician do?

Sterile processing technicians work behind the scenes in healthcare organizations. Here is a summary of precisely what they do:

  • Operate specialized equipment (such as an autoclave) used to sterilize and decontaminate surgical and patient-care equipment, needles, and gloves before and after procedures
  • Check, assemble, and adjust all medical tools to ensure they are functioning properly before surgery begins (different sets of tools and materials are required for different surgical procedures)
  • Arrange surgical equipment in the operating room
  • Log usage of surgical and patient-care equipment and keep accurate records of sterilization and supply inventory
  • Maintain the sterilization and decontamination equipment
  • Receive surgical and patient-care equipment and track its usage throughout the facility’s departments or in other hospital facilities
  • Collaborate with surgery team leads to ensure timely processing and availability of critical equipment

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What is the workplace of a Sterile Processing Technician like?

Hospitals are by far the most common workplace for sterile processing technicians. However, they are also employed in outpatient clinics, physicians’ offices, and dentists’ offices. Sterile processing technicians usually work full-time. Due to hospitals’ around-the-clock schedule, their shifts vary and include days, nights, weekends, and holidays. Being on-call is sometimes required as well.

The typical day in the life of a sterile processing technician begins in the decontamination area, where all post-surgical trays and instruments are received. While cleaning these trays and instruments, technicians must wear PPE or personal protective equipment, consisting of a gown, mask, a face shield, shoe covers, and two pairs of gloves. Once the tray is sanitized it is moved into the assembly area, where full PPE is no longer required but scrubs and hairnets are.

Sterile Processing Technicians are also known as:
Medical Equipment Sterilization Sterilization Technician