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Sterile Processing Technician

Sterile processing technicians gather, disassemble, clean, disinfect, assemble, package, sterilize, store and distribute surgical instruments, supplies and equipment for re-use in a health care facility.

Also Known As:Central Supply Aide, Health Care Assistant, Medical Assistant, Medical Device Reprocessing Technician, Surgical Processor
NOC Number(s):3414.5
Minimum Education:High school diploma
Employment Outlook:Job openings generated due to employment turnover. Occupational outlook currently unavailable.
Interests:O M i

Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study

Duties

Sterile processing technicians' primary responsibility is infection prevention and control. Their duties vary from one position to another but, in general, they:

  • sort, disassemble, clean and disinfect trays, instruments, carts, supplies and equipment
  • select and use appropriate cleaning methods
  • load, operate and maintain cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing equipment
  • perform standard tests to monitor the effectiveness of sterilization procedures
  • sort, assemble and package medical and surgical instruments and equipment
  • report damaged or malfunctioning equipment and supplies
  • store and rotate sterilized items
  • provide instrument sets for surgical procedures and case carts for booked and emergency surgery
  • inventory, select and replenish supplies to medical and surgical carts on a regular basis, and monitor quota levels and changes in demand levels
  • make appropriate substitutions when necessary and report problems regarding availability of instruments and supplies
  • use computers to order supplies, and process and maintain records
  • communicate with operating room personnel to provide required instruments and surgical supplies.

Working Conditions

Sterile processing technicians work in health care environments that are noisy, busy, stressful and sometimes hot and humid. They work with chemicals and must observe safety precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to infectious diseases and injury from hot surfaces and sharp instruments. Technicians are on their feet most of their shift, routinely handle items that weigh up to 10 kilograms, and move loaded sterilization and case carts that weigh much more.

Hospital central supply and sterile processing departments may operate 24 hours a day so technicians must work shifts that may include nights, weekends and holidays.


Personal Characteristics

Sterile processing technicians need the following characteristics:

  • the ability to stand or walk for long periods of time with repeated bending at the knees and waist 
  • no sensitivities to latex, disinfection and sterilization chemicals, or the sight of blood and human tissue
  • good motor co-ordination, manual dexterity and finger dexterity
  • the ability to work under pressure and pay close attention to details
  • good organizational skills
  • good communication and teamwork skills
  • an interest in contributing to community health and safety.

They should enjoy working with a team, operating equipment and using hand tools, and having clear guidelines and organized methods for their work.


Educational Requirements

Some sterile processing technicians have been trained on the job but employers generally prefer to hire applicants who:

  • have completed a related training program (see below)
  • have a high school diploma (or equivalent)
  • have good English language skills and knowledge of basic medical terminology
  • are computer literate.

In Alberta, the following post-secondary institutions offer training programs for sterile processing technicians:

  • Lethbridge College offers a 24 week Central Sterile Processing program that includes eight weeks of work experience. The entrance requirement is a high school diploma with English Language Arts 30-1 or 30-2 and Biology 30, Chemistry 20, Math 20 or equivalent.
  • Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary offers a 21 week Medical Device Reprocessing Technician certificate program that includes classroom instruction with integrated practical learning experiences. It is followed by 400 hours of practicum, of which eight weeks take place at a clinical site. The entrance requirement is a high school diploma with English Language Arts 30-1 or 30-2 or equivalent. SAIT also offers this program through Continuing Education by both distance and non-distance education. 

Continuing education programs may be offered on an as needed basis.

For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.

Section revised June 2013

Employment and Advancement

Sterile processing technicians are employed in:

  • hospital central processing facilities, operating rooms and day procedure facilities
  • doctors' offices
  • private health care facilities
  • surgical centres
  • colon cancer screening centres
  • dental offices.

Without further education, advancement opportunities are limited.

Sterile processing technicians are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 3414: Other Assisting Occupations in Support of Health Services. In Alberta, most people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised November 2013

Salary

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Other Assisting Occupations in Support of Health Services occupational group earned on average from $16.80 to $23.60 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $20.11 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

EDinfo website: www.alis.alberta.ca/edinfo

Alberta Association for Central Service/Sterile Processing Department website: www.aacs-spd.ca


Related Occupational Profiles
Health Care Aide
Infection Control Professional
Licensed Practical Nurse
Medical Laboratory Assistant
Pharmacy Assistant
Pharmacy Technician

Related High School Subjects
English Language Arts; Health, Recreation and Human Services (Health Care Services; and Human and Social Services); and Science (Biology)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Health Care and Medical Sciences

Produced August 2010
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at alis.alberta.ca, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.


Government of Alberta, Human Services