Sterilization technicians, also known as medical equipment preparers or sterile processing techs, fully clean medical equipment and products to get them ready to be used again. These technicians are the first ones in patient care rooms after patients are discharged from hospitals or other healthcare facilities. From floor to ceiling, techs make sure everything is disinfected and sterilized.
Knowledge and Abilities
The basic requirement to be a sterilization technician is a high school diploma or the equivalent. To learn their trade, new techs are trained on the job. Although medical knowledge isn't crucial for the position, mechanical skills are. Techs must be able to detect imperfections in equipment, identify the issues and perform minor adjustments or repairs, such as changing or flushing out hoses that are blocked up.
Disinfectant and Inspection
Sterilization technicians start a project by cleaning all the products, equipment and materials in the room. During the initial cleaning process, they check for any signs of breaks, tares or worn parts that need attention. They test machines and other equipment to ensure that components, including monitors and gauges, work as they should. Once the room is clean and inspections are complete, techs begin sterilizing large pieces of equipment -- such as hospital beds and dialysis machines -- by hand. They use steam autoclaves to sterilize small tools and supplies, which are then distributed to surgical trays for later use.
Deliveries and Installation
Sterilization technicians perform a variety of other duties as well, such as replenishing crash cart supplies and checking expiration dates on unopened, sterile tools. Techs may also deliver equipment to patients' homes or to hospital rooms. Deliveries usually entail installation and trial runs, but those delivering to patients may also need to explain proper use of the equipment. Techs attend routine training programs and educational sessions to keep their mechanical skills and medical knowledge up-to-date.
Advancement and Earnings
The Healthcare VCN reports that candidates who have completed some college courses, particularly in areas related to the medical field, have better chances of getting employed and promoted. According to ONet Online, medical equipment preparers earned a median salary of $31,720 in 2013. Because of demand for healthcare services and the constant evolution of equipment in the medical field, the future for these workers looks favorable. ONet expects a faster-than-average growth in jobs -- 15 percent to 21 percent -- from 2012 to 2022, equivalent to about 20,300 new jobs.
2016 Salary Information for Medical Equipment Repairers
Medical equipment repairers earned a median annual salary of $48,070 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, medical equipment repairers earned a 25th percentile salary of $36,160, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $62,370, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 47,100 people were employed in the U.S. as medical equipment repairers.