15 facts, statistics on central sterile departments and technicians

While they don't always receive praise for their work, central sterile technicians in the sterile processing department are integral to patient care.

"The sterile processing department and central sterile techs are the heartbeat of the hospital, working behind the scenes to ensure everything is ready and prepared for surgical procedures. Their goal is to protect the welfare and safety of patients," said Hassan Bilal, who supports and advises Medline central sterile sales representatives and is a voting member on the Sterilization Standards Committee for the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instruments. "It's so important to recognize the significance of the central sterile department."

Central sterile technicians are responsible for cleaning, decontaminating, processing, sterilizing, assembling, testing, and otherwise managing the instruments and equipment needed in patient care, especially during surgery. Without sterilized instruments, properly organized and available in trays, patients could be at risk for surgical site infections and cases could be delayed as nurses search for the appropriate tools.

Organized by the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management, International Central Sterile Week takes place Oct. 11-17 in recognition of these technicians. In honor of International Central Sterile Week, Becker's Hospital Review compiled 15 things to know about sterile processing departments and the specialists that fill them.

Employment numbers

1. There are 50,550 instrument specialist technicians in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

2. The size and type of facility, hospital, physician office, surgery center, etc., dictates the amount of people that work in the sterile processing department. Many facilities hire people based on surgical hours performed, according to Mr. Bilal. There could be one person in a sterile processing department or as many as 100 people.

3. The constant technological advancements in medical supplies/devices and instrumentation has led to a growing demand for highly trained central service technicians. According to the BLS, the job growth for instrument specialist technicians between 2012 and 2022 is at 20 percent.

4. Industries with the highest levels of employment of instrument specialist technicians:

  • General medical and surgical hospitals — 35,100
  • Outpatient care centers — 3,660
  • Physician offices — 2,890
  • Dentist offices — 2,380

5. States with the highest employment level of instrument specialist technicians:

  • California — 6,540
  • Florida — 4,580
  • Texas — 3,100
  • Ohio — 2,260
  • New York — 2,230


6. The mean hourly wage for instrument specialist technicians is $16.28.

7. The mean annual wage for instrument specialist technicians is $33,850.


8. Most facilities have between two and four levels of central sterile technicians, depending on duties, according to Mr. Bilal. Duties will vary by facility; Tech Is likely perform basic duties such as delivering supplies and carts, while a Tech IV might have to put together more sets, handle biologicals or perform sterilization duties.

9. Sterile processing department staff play a large role in helping prevent healthcare-associated infections. Without proper decontamination, preparing and packaging and sterile instrumentation, patients could be at risk for HAIs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HAIs occurred in an estimated 722,000 patients in acute care hospitals, and caused 75,000 deaths in 2011.

Training and certification

10. Training for sterile processing department and central sterile technicians often includes a clinical practicum. Many sterile processing technician training schools also help prepare these technicians for the exams that can lead to certification.

11. An individual who is new to a sterile processing department must receive at least one year of training to fully understand what the job entails, according to Mr. Bilal.

12. Two states — New Jersey and New York — require certification of central sterile technicians, and as of Jan. 1, 2016, Connecticut will also require certification. People who become certified as a central sterile technician are typically paid more, so even if it's not a state requirement, many people proactively embark on getting certified, according to Mr. Bilal.

13. Sterile processing department and central sterile technicians may receive education and certification through the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution and the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Material Management, according to IAHCSMM.

14. IAHCSMM offers the following certification:

  • CRST
  • CIS
  • CHL

15. There are also online courses central sterile technicians can take to continue their education. Medline University, for instance, has more than 680,000 registered users across the continuum of care who use the platform to help improve the clinician-patient relationship, empowerment and career growth for certified nursing assistants. The platform offers specific courses for central service departments.


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