What do you want to become?
Medical Equipment Preparer
Alternate Career Titles: Sterile Processing Technician/Manager, Central Processing Technician/Manager
Career Overview: Medical Equipment Preparers ready, install and clean healthcare or laboratory equipment.
Career Salary Range: $23,610 to $50,620
Estimated Years of Schooling Required: 6 months
Required Minimum Degree/License: High School Diploma
Become a Medical Equipment Preparer
Just as the career title implies, Medical Equipment Preparers are responsible for preparing healthcare or laboratory equipment. Like keeping things clean and tidy? This could be the perfect career in healthcare for you! However, that is not all these professionals do. In addition to preparation, they also clean and sterilize equipment, install equipment, perform routine laboratory tasks and inspect / operate equipment. Additionally, a Medical Equipment Preparer may be asked to occasionally schedule patients or enter information into a database.
“Sterile Processing is for folks who have a strong sense of urgency, who are light on their feet and quick thinkers,” William DeLuca, a Sterile Processing Manager at Hoboken University Medical Center in New Jersey, said. “The career is stressful yet gratifying. You will meet amazing people from a variety of different cultures, religions and races.”
DeLuca added that hospitals in general seem to be very diverse places to work in, and here, Medical Equipment Preparers will be working alongside nurses, anesthesiologists, doctors, surgical techs, dietary aides and other health professionals.
“The greatest part of this career is the fact you play an integral role in the outcome of patient care. If an instrument was dirty or soiled, and was used on a patient, that patient can develop a surgical site infection, or SSI,” DeLuca explained. “Sterile Processing Technicians and Managers have very important and essential roles in patient care.”
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Education & Training
While a high school diploma is all that is needed to pursue a career as a Medical Equipment Preparer, there exists a Medical Preparer certificate program which provides instruction on introductory topics.
“To become a Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST), you must pass the 150 question national exam administered by The International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM),” DeLuca said. “After you’ve passed the exam you have earned a provisional or temporary certification, meaning you have 6 months to complete 400 hours of hands-on clinical training in a sterile processing department to become fully certified.”
DeLuca added that professionals can earn their 400 hours prior to taking the exam, and that there are Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution schools and courses available for a more in-depth and thorough training. Once hired, Sterile Processing Technicians usually receive on-site training for a period of time.
“I myself have worked with many fantastic schools and courses in the US, Marie’s Allied Health and Technical Institute in Somerset, NJ, Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tenn. and the self-study course Premier Central Services,” DeLuca said. “Finding schools and courses that help students find internships after graduation are the challenge when trying to become fully certified. A lot of hospitals don’t have the resources and staff to facilitate the process.”
He further noted that courses usually run 3 to 6 months long, and that the exam and courses are not difficult in his opinion. Instead, DeLuca believes they interest and challenge learners enough to not deter them, but to keep them intrigued. During and after schooling, networking and relationship building will also be factors in finding a position.
“Training in Sterile Processing can open many doors,” DeLuca explained. After becoming a Sterile Processing Technician, you can become a Manager and then Director. Directors of Sterile Processing usually only work in larger healthcare systems, and do require at least an associate degree. Proving yourself to be a reliable and knowledgeable manager, along with having uncanny people skills will help you reach the most advanced position as a Director.”
Receiving formal training through work experiences is another way to advance in this career in healthcare. Also, demonstrating motivation and ambition will also help gain a professional advancement opportunities in this field. However, if experience and hard work do not result in advancement, an alternative method to advance as a Central Processing Technician is to acquire additional certification, training or pursue advanced degree opportunities, such as an Associate’s Degree in biomedical equipment technology or engineering.
Experience & Skills
To be successful in the role of a Sterile Processing Technician, professionals should possess strong critical thinking skills. This will help them to determine how to most efficiently prepare equipment and determine if the proper sterilization methods have been exercised. They should also be able to monitor and determine whether or not improvements or corrective action is needed. Furthermore, Central Processing Technicians should possess the ability to analyze quality control, be active listeners and assess all elements of preparation / operation monitoring. Manual dexterity is also important in this career, as these professionals spend a large amount of time working with their hands.
“There are many skills Sterile Processing Technicians must have to succeed,” DeLuca said. “You need to be resourceful when problems arise. Staying organized and multitasking are traits you can’t be without.”
“A good Medical Equipment Preparer is someone who has great people skills, is cool, calm and collected,” DeLuca explained. “There will be times when you will need to make split second decisions in critical situations. Patients are anesthetized on the operating room table while nurses and doctors wait for you decision.”
He added that someone who doesn’t take things personal is ideal for this role, as there will be times when they will be criticized and scrutinized. He explained that there will be good days and bad days, but a Medical Equipment Preparer must always have a positive attitude, stay focused and organized.
Thus, effective Medical Equipment Preparers are professionals who possess strong attention to detail, helping to minimize the potential for error, and who are dependable and cooperative healthcare team members. They should also be able to work well under potentially stressful situations, and be largely independent in the completion of their obligatory tasks. When there are many patients to be seen during a given workday, oftentimes Physicians and other supervisory staff members do not have the time to explain operations to Sterile Processing Technicians or Managers, and therefore they should be able to complete the scope of work on their own and in a timely matter.
Medical Equipment Preparers usually work full-time schedules, meaning 40 hours per week. However, because they work in a variety of healthcare facilities, some are on call and work various shifts including evenings, nights, weekends and holidays. Some may also be required to work shifts longer than the typical eight hours, when necessary. Additionally, this career in healthcare is extremely hands-on and independant. While interaction between staff members occurs on a daily basis, this career does not involve much socialization with patients or directly with Physicians or Surgeons.
“Sterile Processing Managers have busy schedules,” DeLua said. “You are on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Rain, sleet or snow, you must make your way into the office.”
He continued by explaining that these professions may be expected to stay up-to-date on best practices by attending seminars or networking events. Furthermore, he noted that Medical Equipment Preparers will have busy days and off days, but usually there is always a project or a challenge to overcome.
While employment of Medical Equipment Preparers is growing, between 2016 and 2026 the career is only expected to grow 4 percent. This growth can be largely attributed to an aging baby boom population, who now require greater healthcare services. Therefore, Central Processing Technicians are needed to help prep and sterilize equipment, as well as to ensure that medical equipment is operating properly when treating this population.
Facilities who most often hire Sterile Processing Technicians or Managers include hospitals, outpatient care centers, the offices of Dentists, the offices of Physicians and postsecondary education settings. The state with the highest employment level in this occupation is California, followed by Florida, Texas, New York and New Jersey.
“Networking and relationship building are important when finding employment,” DeLuca said. “Here in the New York and New Jersey areas, everyone knows someone you know. Word gets around fast, so if you can prove to be a great manager your past employers, co-workers and staff will find you.”
As of 2016, the median annual wage for a Medical Equipment Preparer was $35,960, with the top 10 percent earning more than $50,620 and the lowest 10 percent earning less than $23,610. Additionally, the top paying industries for this occupation are machinery, equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers, the management of companies and enterprises, employment services, specialty hospitals and the federal executive branch. Top paying states for this occupation are California, Nevada, Alaska, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.
“Your salary varies by facility, state and city. Larger more extinguished facilities will pay more than your local community hospital,” DeLuca explained.
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) is a nonprofit organization focused on the the development, management and use of safe and effective health technology. This organization also seeks to contain instrumentation costs, add value to healthcare organizations, improve professional skills, enhance patient care and stay on top of related trends and developments.
The International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) is an organization which is dedicated to managing and directing security and safety programs in healthcare settings. Ultimately, this organization offers exclusive resources and benefits including industry and design guidelines, local and international educational and networking opportunities to participating members.
- Reach out to local hospitals to career shadow
- Create a LinkedIn profile
- Network with Medical Equipment Preparers
- Take sterile processing courses
- Intern at a local hospital
All statistics are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Meet the professional: William DeLuca
Practice: Hoboken University Medical Center for Carepoint Health
Location: Hoboken, NJ
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Take action! Don’t overthink the process of entering this career. Call up a local educational school or program and enroll. Do not get analysis paralysis, this career move will only be for the better.”
What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“They think the career will be easy.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“Who do I need to know in this field and why?”
Why did you choose to become a Medical Equipment Preparer?
“I honestly became a Medical Equipment Preparer because I was great at sterilization and some people on my path upward in the field told me I wouldn’t be able to advance. So, I wanted to prove them wrong and I have.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
*Credentialing organizations: Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution