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What does a Central Sterile Processing Technician do?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A central sterile processing technician is a medical professional who specializes in stocking, sterilizing, packaging, and preparing the tools and equipment that are used in surgical procedures. This technician frequently takes inventory of surgical tools and accessories and obtains additional supplies when necessary. He or she is often held responsible for ensuring the cleanliness and safety of operating rooms, tables, and equipment. These individuals may work in a number of different medical settings, including general hospitals, public health clinics, private doctors' offices, and specialized surgical centers.

A proficient technician can greatly ease the burdens and stresses on surgeons and physicians performing difficult emergency procedures. Surgeons can be confident that their instruments are sterilized and supplies are well stocked at all times. A central sterile processing technician usually refers to a checklist to make sure that sufficient quantities of gloves, masks, scalpels, needles, and other surgical accessories are present in an operating room. When supplies run low, a technician retrieves them from storage or places orders from distributing warehouses.

Many technicians work in highly specialized operating rooms, where they take great care to sterilize surfaces and equipment. Professionals are essential in preventing infections and the spread of disease from dirty instruments. They might inspect tools and equipment for signs of dirt or wear, and use alcohol pads or other chemical cleaning agents to sterilize them. Some technicians clean and maintain very delicate computerized and robotic equipment, taking extra care to avoid damaging machines.

An individual who wants to become a central sterile processing technician usually needs to obtain a high school diploma and complete a one- to two-year training program at a community college or specialized vocational school. Some states and countries require technicians to pass written and practical certifying exams administered by an accredited national organization, such as the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution in the United States. Many new technicians work under the supervision of experienced professionals for a certain period of time to learn more about the details of the job.

There is a strong demand for qualified technicians in hospitals, medical clinics, doctors' offices, and nursing homes worldwide. Professionals are especially valued in locations where healthcare is historically insufficient or difficult to obtain. Skilled international technicians can help to prevent pandemics and ensure that quality, safe medical attention is provided to people in need.

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Discussion Comments

By anon343471 — On Jul 30, 2013

I am looking into this field to get a certificate from a community college that is now offering the program. I really wanted to break into the medical field without committing to a timely and costly program all to find out that it's not really for me. I think this suits what I am trying to achieve and the program is 16 weeks with a semester of clinical work and a board test.

It's real hard to get into the medical field without being certified in one way or another. I am not really the type for nursing or CNA programs so hopefully this is a better path for someone like myself.

By Autoclavis — On Oct 28, 2012

"A central sterile processing technician might inspect tools and equipment for signs of dirt or wear, and use alcohol pads or other chemical cleaning agents to sterilize them."

This sentence describes sanitizing, not sterilization. Sterilization can only be accomplished when items are properly cleaned, dried, wrapped and then placed in an autoclave to be subjected to a sterilizing medium, which in most cases would either be steam or a gas such as ethylene oxide, under pressure, and for a measured amount of time. At the end of this processes all micro organisms are then killed.

By JaneAir — On Jun 11, 2011

@Azuza - Most people really have no idea how the medical field works. The truth is the doctors delegate pretty much anything that can be done by someone who didn't go to medical school to someone else. In fact I had a doctor tell me when she was in medical school they were told they didn't need to learn how to draw blood because it was "beneath them" and someone else could do it.

While the above example is a bit extreme, doctors really do have specialized skills. It's also important to note that just because they have these skills doesn't mean they know everything about running a hospital or medical practice. That's why having a central supply technician in a surgical practice is essential.

By Azuza — On Jun 09, 2011

I never knew the job "central service technician" existed! I've heard the term before but for some reason I thought it referred to an air conditioner technician.

I've always imagined the doctors took care of sterilizing the instruments but that doesn't make sense now that I think about it. Doctors are busy seeing patients and performing surgery so when would they have time to sterilize the instruments?

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