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Sterile Processing: Personal & Professional

 There is a lot of discussion around professional development in the sterile processing industry. And while our industry speaks clearly to the benefits of developing professionally, it can’t seem to articulate actionable steps to the technicians eagerly awaiting them. This is because professional development does not mean the same thing to every SP professional. An exact map of how to get from Point A to Point B professionally cannot be drafted and applied to every professional perfectly. Our professional development journey is created based on our ability to develop personally. Personal dedication to ourselves is vital to overall professional success. For a sterile processing technician to develop and grow in their professional journey, they must first know what they are striving for. 

Professional goals
Sterile processing is often referred to as an entry-level job. This term implies that sterile processing will serve as an entry point to larger, work-related opportunities. This type of position has the ability to:

  • Encourage growth through their department’s leadership ladder
  • Create future industry contributors
  • Facilitate transition to a completely different healthcare profession.

The path that the professional chooses is determined by their aspirations. These hopes and ambitions are the key component to professional development. Professional development is the process of acquiring knowledge that enhances the skills required to perform one’s job duties. These are tangible, typically hard skills that can be monitored for growth through proven methods (i.e., certifications and certificates). Aspirations require objectives and goals in order to monitor their growth. The attainment of objectives and completion of goals will become the physical indicators used to define overall professional development. By determining which objectives will define their professional development, the SP technician should create a professional development map—a map to their definition of success.

Personal development
Professional development allows for sterile processing technicians to outline the requirements necessary to reach their goals. There will almost always be setbacks as the professional begins to strive toward their objectives. These obstacles are typically based on the areas that require personal development. This is where the real work begins.

Personal development is the ongoing act of self-assessment. Through a series of acts that include self-reflection, honest assessment, and ego appraisal, an SP professional can determine why they may be facing opposition in their professional pursuits. These activities will develop the skills and qualities necessary to reach their professional potential. Personal development takes a tremendous amount of dedication to professional goals. The realization that accompanies these personal development activities are impactful. They contribute to one’s maturity, transferable skills, fulfillment in one’s current role, and advancement in their career. They are often less tangible, soft skills that lead to growth in emotional intelligence.

Personal meets professional
Personal development is difficult, to say the least. Yet we must stay dedicated to our personal development practice. Our practice can be facilitated through programs, coaching, or even assessments provided by our facility. It is true that one can achieve professional goals without personal development; however, the sustainability of one’s professional achievements rely so heavily upon it. If we are to achieve the permanency to the professional goals that we want, we must develop habits that support it. Through personal development activities, we will determine which areas require us to harness or create interpersonal skills, thus creating the personal foundations necessary to support our professional development goals.

Personal and professional development rely on each other in this way. Let’s combine and apply the two to define our sterile processing success story. Aspiration inspires the ambition to create objectives that highlight our professional development goals. When on that path, we discover that new habits are necessary and use personal development to raise ourselves to the fortitude necessary to achieve them. The cycle continues over and over again until we inevitably attain our professional goal. 

Development is a choice
Regardless of the approach we take, professional development must be a choice. It is not a requirement for our jobs, in any way. There is absolutely no shame or lack of pride in performing the outlined tasks and responsibilities of our daily sterile processing department’s expectations. If that is fulfilling, then let it stay that way! However, if we want to change within our sterile processing role, personal and professional development has to happen in some shape or form.

 Unfortunately, there is no way to create a one-size-fits-all approach to professional development. In future articles, we’ll discuss key terms used to define our personal development. Having outlined what those terms mean to us, we’ll apply them to our sterile processing professional development journey. I can’t wait to learn how your “entry-level” position takes shape by the end of this year!


Sarah B. Cruz, CSPDT, CRCST, is a quality education program development coordinator for central sterile. As a CS education coordinator, she creates and institutes an education program in central sterile departments. This includes, but is not limited to, the formation of programs that onboard new employees, develop competencies, certify staff, develop LEAN process improvements, and implement standards of best practices and professional practices.

Sarah’s dedication to her industry continues as the creator and president of PRETREAT CSS, LLC, a mentorship platform used to educate, motivate, and support CS technicians’ professional development. Through tangible actions and physical indicators of success, Sarah knows central sterile services is an excellent profession to develop in as a career. She vocalizes her passion through published articles, social media, webinars, and public speaking. As an industry expert, she is passionate about her message: put the CSS in SUCCESS!

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