A day in the life of a Sterile Technician: what kind of profession is it that can be quickly mastered and without which the future of medicine is impossible

When we have something sick, we first turn to friends or Google with a request to recommend a good therapist, dentist, surgeon ... We believe that the effectiveness of a medical procedure depends solely on the professionalism of the doctor who performed it. But it's not. In every hospital there are specialists invisible to the patient, on the quality of which the well-being of the patient depends no less than on the professionalism of a surgeon or dentist. They are called Sterile Processing Technicians (specialists in the sterilization of medical instruments) and no surgical procedure is possible without them. 

Photo: IStock

Through the School of Medical Professions Concord rusam we were able to look into the invisible side of medicine to spend a day with a Sterile Processing Technician. Join now!

Why the surgeon always has everything at hand

Every day, millions of surgical procedures are performed in American hospitals, ranging from a few interventions to over a hundred operations per day per facility, depending on its size. 

When the doctor and the patient make a decision about the operation, the procedure is scheduled for a certain time and entered into the database. In each case, a DPC (doctor preference card) is also included in the schedule - a list of everything that the surgeon has requested for this procedure. 

The day before the operation, the DPC is printed out and sent to the department of sterilization of medical instruments, and here our invisible heroes, Sterile Processing Technicians, enter the fight for the life and health of the patient. An employee of the sterilization department loads all the instruments requested by the surgeon on a special cart and keeps it ready. At the right time, this trolley will be delivered to the operating room using a special “clean” elevator. 

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Thus, surgeons receive the necessary instruments in a sterile condition and on time. But where do these tools come from? Can't a hospital buy new ones every time?! Of course not! Let's follow the path of medical instruments from one operation to another together with the Sterile Processing Technician!  

New life for medical instruments

After the operation is completed, the instruments are sent for cleaning to the same sterilization department on the same trolley on which they arrived, but already on the so-called dirty elevator. 

According to the rules, in the sterilization department itself, dirty instruments are kept separately from clean ones, and clean ones are separated from sterile ones. 

In the "dirty" area, the tools are washed - first by hand, and then in automatic washes. After that, they enter the “clean” zone. There they are sorted and tested to see if they are suitable for reuse during a surgical procedure.

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After testing, the instruments are packed in individual heat-resistant packages and sent to huge industrial sterilizers. 

The sterilization department then has to perform a quality control to check that the instrument is indeed free of contaminants and harmful organisms. To do this, each hospital has a multi-level verification process. The most common of these are tapes that are glued to instruments and which change color if the temperature in the sterilizer has reached the desired level. In addition, sealed ampoules with live bacteria are placed in the sterilizer along with the instruments, and then, at the exit, they are checked to see if they have died.

After sterilization, the instruments are sent to the shelves in sterile boxes, where they wait until the surgeon requests them again through the DPC. Special protective mechanisms are attached to such boxes, which prevent accidental opening and let personnel know if the box has been opened.

Sterile Processing Technician is not a dishwasher, it is a responsible and technological profession

All the described steps fall on the shoulders of specialists in the sterilization of medical instruments. Every month, about a million different instruments pass through the sterilization department of a large hospital, some of them very expensive. Each tool is assigned a barcode so that it can be tracked by a computer system. A Sterile Processing Technician is not a dishwasher, but a specialist who understands the technology of complex industrial sterilizers; knows all medical instruments and acceptable ways to clean them; understands how it is safe for the instrument itself to remove viruses and bacteria from the instrument that could harm the patient.

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On the course Sterile Processing Technician at the Concord Rusam school they teach all this. Right now, recruitment is underway group, which will start on September 12. You can get the profession of a specialist in the sterilization of medical instruments in just a few months, and then grow and develop already in the workplace. 

A graduate of the course comes to work as a Tech 1, an entry-level specialist. After several months of internship, you must pass a certification test - and you will receive a Tech 2 qualification. After another 6-8 months of work, you can upgrade your qualifications to Tech 3. As a result, through hard work and expansion of experience, you can get the highest level - Tech 4. Each step The qualification provides for different levels of work, access to cleaning tools of varying complexity and, of course, affects the salary. Then you can develop to the head of the shift, or even the entire sterilization department, whose salary exceeds $80 per year.

Photo: IStock

The process of sterilizing medical instruments is complex, technologically advanced and very responsible. And the Sterile Technician is an integral part of the medical system that ensures patient safety. Now, not a single hospital can do without them, and this is unlikely to change in the near future. 

Help for those who are interested in the work of the Sterile Technician:
  • open vacancies - over 7000 in the USA;
  • average salary – depends on the state, in New York – $ 33,4 per hour;
  • Demand for specialists - will grow by 14% until 2026;
  • Duration of study (on the course at school Concord rusam) - 2 months.
  • О Concord rusam: The school has been operating in the USA since 2007 and is certified by the New York State Department of Education. The teaching is practice-oriented rather than theory-oriented and is conducted in English, but Russian-speaking teachers are always ready to explain difficult points in Russian. Graduates are helped with the preparation of resumes and employment.
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