Sterile Processing School and College Program Information

Sterile processing technicians are medical staff members who make sure that all surgical tools are free of germs prior to use. The most common education programs for sterile processing technicians award a certificate of completion to graduates. Read on to learn more about these programs.

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Choosing a Sterile Processing School

Sterile processing programs, sometimes called 'central sterile processing programs', are available at many 2-year colleges. They are typically offered at the certificate or the associate's degree level. A certificate of completion is sufficient for entry-level employment in the field.

Summary of Considerations

  • Time in school
  • Practical experience
  • Certification prep

Time in School

Students seeking the quickest path toward a career as a sterile technician may want to select a school that offers a certificate of completion in sterile processing. Some schools offer a track for associates degree graduates to progress to the bachelor's level in nursing or a related medical field. Students interested in earning college credits or in pursuing a bachelor's degree in the future may want to consider attending an associate's degree program.

Practical Experience

Often, sterile processing experience is important for finding employment in the field after graduation. Because of this, many schools offer students the ability to complete internships or clinical rotations. A school with hospital or clinical affiliations may allow students to gain valuable experience desired by many prospective employers.

Certification Prep

Voluntary certifications, such as those offered by the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution, Inc. and the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, are available in the field. Schools that prepare students for voluntary certification examinations or to meet other certification requirements may make becoming certified an easier process. In turn, being certified may increase employment opportunities.

Program Overviews

Certificate Programs

Sterile processing certificate programs instruct students on the skills to ensure that surgical equipment is in optimal condition before and during surgical procedures. Programs emphasize practical skills used in operating rooms and medical facilities, and many provide clinical experience opportunities to students. In their courses, students learn methods for cleaning, sterilizing, storing, inspecting and presenting equipment before and during surgeries. Coursework covers:

  • Central processing techniques
  • Accounting and budgeting
  • Working with surgical teams
  • Medical terminology

Associate of Applied Science Programs

These 2-year degree programs are commonly offered in sterile processing and surgical technology. Students learn how to assist in surgery and maintain surgical equipment, as well as how to perform other duties related to central sterile processing. Graduates serve as scrub technologists, operating room assistants and circulating technologists. These programs provide more coursework geared toward the health field, with classes in:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • General psychology
  • Surgical technology
  • Microbiology and immunology
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