How to Become a Sterile Processing Aide

Learn how to become a sterile processing aide. Research the education and career requirements, certification and experience required for starting a career as a sterile processing aide.

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Do I Want to Be a Sterile Processing Aide?

Also referred to as medical equipment preparers, these aides are responsible for sterilizing and cleaning equipment in medical settings. For example, they sterilize surgical instruments, clean machines regularly and purge waste. Aides may stand for prolonged periods and often must wear protective gear.

Job Requirements

While only a high school diploma is required to work in the field, postsecondary certificate programs may be beneficial. Optional certification is also available that may improve job prospects. The table below includes the requirements to become a sterile processing aide from job postings as of December 2012.

Common Requirements
Degree Level None required; high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement
Certification Voluntary certification may be preferred
Experience 2-5 years preferred by employers
Key Skills Knowledge of infection control procedures, dexterity to clean instruments, ability to follow directions, good communication and interpersonal skills
Technical Skills Knowledge of medical terminology, familiarity with different types of sterilizers
Other Skills Ability to lift up to 50 lbs.

Step 1: Gain the Skills to Work in the Field

Sterile processing aides generally do not have any formal education requirements aside from a high school diploma or its equivalent. However, many employers require that applicants have related experience before they are hired as sterile processing aides. A certificate program can familiarize a person with sterilization equipment and procedures. It can also introduce a person to some of the job duties of sterile processing aides, such as using sterilization equipment, arranging instruments on surgical trays and repackaging sterilized instruments.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in a field experience. Some programs may offer students an opportunity to participate in a field experience. This offers prospective sterile processing aides an opportunity to work in the field and learn under an experience aide.

Step 2: Gain Employment

Sterile processing aides work in clinical settings and track inventory and sterilize equipment. They order, restock, sort and repackage equipment and instruments. In addition, sterile processing aides check to make sure that all equipment functions properly and report if any issues, such as defects or malfunctions, are found. Sterile processing aides play an important role in maintaining a safe environment for patients and keep an eye out for any safety concerns or errors.

Step 3: Earn Certification

The Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) offers certification for sterile processing aides. Those who wish to become certified must complete a course of study and then pass an examination. The course may be completed online or in person, or an applicant may purchase study materials and study for the exam independently.

Success Tip:

  • Complete continuing education requirements. The CBSPD requires certification to be renewed every five years. Recertification can be earned by working full-time and completing continuing education courses.
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