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No Tech Left Behind
Every technician has a “first job” story; however, we seldom see the grueling process behind attaining it. Although the profession itself is not overly saturated, given the number of sterile processing positions available within the job market, it’s why there are so many openings that should cause industry concerns. The number of available sterile processing technical programs has increased; therefore, more inexperienced technicians are joining the job marketplace. Aspiring technicians join these programs and complete the requirements to pass the course and some will even obtain provisional certifications. Unfortunately, many of these individuals will not be able to develop further professionally due to the inability to gain on-the-job experience or a certain amount of externship hours. Some will even lose their provisional certification that they worked so diligently to attain.

Alarming trends
A growing trend among our industry’s future is that technician ambition is snuffed out before it even has a chance to catch on fire. Observing the numerous sterile processing communities created on various social media sites shows a rising trend in the same question: Where can I do my externship and do you know where they are hiring people with no experience? A number of individuals have tried their best to offer suggestions. Despite the overwhelming number of participants in the online communities, these questions are seldom answered clearly. The best these stuck technicians usually get is what someone else, usually in a different state, tried or failed at.

With all the red flags that exist in the sterile processing industry, this must be considered the biggest, brightest, and most glaring. If aspiring technicians cannot gain the traction they need to enter the workforce, we as present-day industry professionals must help them. “Should,” “could,” or “ought to” are not allowed to be used when making this industry standard.

The future of our industry, those who will perpetuate the sterile processing profession, cannot even acquire their first job without assistance. With only these online communities to turn to, they often do not receive the assistance they need.

Call to action
Our profession will eventually run to complete ruin if we do not step up now. I have personally tried to amass the knowledge necessary to offer solutions and clear physical indicators of success, even as far as calling various state hospitals to ask what their externship outlines and requirements were for these hopeful sterile processing technicians. Aside from the expected “a sterile what?” question that usually follows my inquiries, I have found that the facilities don’t usually have a solution or pathway for entry-level technicians. Even a current industry professional, such as I, faces a professional dead end. There must be a way to create an accomplishment pathway in this endeavor, especially as we advocate for each state to mandate certification by law. This issue will not go away or solve itself. This is no longer an individual’s problem; it is an industry affliction.

This is a formal plea, call to action, and billboard request to all industry professionals and leaders. We must act on this now before our profession becomes defined and preceded by this discouragement. I know that if we give this the attention it needs, we will find solutions. We can create a more successful and clearer pathway for our ambitious future professionals. Some questions to consider are: Do the technician programs have to include externship opportunities? Who is going to make sure the programs follow through? How can we inform prospective technicians on some pertinent requirements to expect of their program? Perhaps it is to be placed upon the state’s facilities, similar to nursing. Is there a certain level of requirement placed on facilities to permit the training of aspiring sterile processing technicians? If so, what is the threshold? Maybe our industry should be responsible for this. Our industry standards, bylaws, and accreditations are considered heavily in the documents created by AAMI, ANSI, and AORN. Do we have to create and add a section pertaining to the professional etiquette, expectation, and sincerity of our roles taken upon by the facilities that employ us? We, as current industry professionals, have our work cut out for us.

Industry support
The amount of undefined and unsupported professional aspects that our fellow CS colleagues are facing is glaring. Frankly, it is overwhelming. The feelings of discouragement and lack of support are the first impression individuals get of our profession. No wonder passion and ambition can’t inspire and motivate them. It can’t even catch a spark. The single most discouraging aspect of applying for a sterile processing technician position is seeing that experience and certification is required. Everyone entering the job market is stuck on a professional plateau because they need a job to take them to the next level. What will happen to our industry if we need next-level technicians but do not create the pathway for them to follow. Future industry leaders are ready to go down that path. We, as current industry professionals, must create the gateway for them to enter.

Let’s do this for them, ourselves, and our industry’s future.

Sarah B. Cruz is a certified sterile processing technician with a passion for the profession. Starting out as a veterinary assistant, she wanted to learn how to reprocess instruments in order to be more beneficial to the neurology team. She attended a CSS certification program through her local community college and it changed her life in so many ways. After leaving a profession she had for years, Sarah acquired her first job in central sterile processing. It couldn’t have been a better decision! Sarah’s professional ambition is to take her job in CSS and forge her career. The profession has opened numerous doors and opportunities for her that she feels compelled to inform everyone of their own ability to do so. Sarah is looking forward to relaying some of the goals, ambitions, and hurdles that CS technicians face in the trenches, while relaying compelling solutions that will promote patient safety and field growth.

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