Support is key to success

July 23, 2019
CS/SPD training and certification flourish in facilities that make it a priority

The field of sterile processing is complex, fast-paced and a critical component to delivering effective and safe patient care. A thoroughly educated and trained central sterile/sterile processing department (CS/SPD) professional is a valuable asset to a hospital, as valuable as the surgeons, nurses and other clinicians who provide hands on care. While the CS/SPD tech isn’t in the room while the clinicians perform a procedure, he or she is accountable for the efficacy and safety of the instruments that touch that patient — and that is a tremendous responsibility.

“The challenges facing today’s CS/SP professionals are many,” said Natalie Lind, CRCST, CHL, FCS, International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM) Education Director. “Technicians often help each other navigate new processes and situations. Education helps us all better understand the reasons why we do what we do and it gives us the confidence to seek additional information, when needed.”

In this article, we present stories of three CS/SPD professionals who have successfully implemented education and training programs with the goal of increasing compliance to industry standards and manufacturers’ instructions for use (IFU), supporting certification, and ultimately delivering safer, more effective instruments to the point of care. We also provide educational resources from vendors that CS/SPDs professionals can leverage to grow their professional knowledge and advance toward certification.

Continuing education beyond course completion

Tony Thurmond, CRCST, CIS, CHL, Central Service Manager at The Christ Hospital Health Network, and IAHCSMM President, described how his department supports training and certification of its technicians, including education well beyond successful completion of exams.

According to Thurmond, The Christ Hospital Health Network requires certification upon hire or within the first year. Because the hospital does not get many certified applicants, Thurmond and his team offer education and assistance with certification to new hires who are not certified. This includes a four-month course where each week they cover a chapter of the IAHCSMM Central Service Technical Manual over two classes, with a test following completion of each chapter. The facility pays for study materials, classroom time and testing.

“Along with the provided education and assistance, we have several preceptors who prepare the new staff for the daily routine, as well as unique scenarios that help prepare the technician for the unexpected,” said Thurmond. “Certification in our department is currently at 85 percent (we have 82 employees). Competencies are also vital to the success of the department’s ability to provide ultimate patient safety. Processes and techniques are reviewed by competencies at least yearly due to the complexity of the task.

“Many organizations do not factor productivity while conducting continuing education,” Thurmond added. “Education and the certification process are as much factors of productivity as the number of trays being processed.”

Study group supports certification, schedules

When asked for best practices in CS/SPD education and training, Casey Czarnowski, Sterile Processing Educator at Stanford Health Care, said his favorite success story involved “the journey to certification.” Czarnowski has been educating CS/SPD professionals throughout the past 13 years, serving as a CS/SPD supervisor, preceptor and educator within various healthcare systems.

At his last hospital, the overnight technicians in the CS/SPD were required to pass a basic certification exam because the facility required certification of all CS/SPD professionals within one year of hire. He explains how all three of these individuals had families and second jobs during the day so their study time was limited. Working together, Czarnowski, as educator, and the technicians decided on a directed study approach that would accommodate the technicians’ schedules.

The healthcare facility provided the study materials for all employees who required certification. Each week, the technicians would read a chapter from the certification textbook and compete the accompanying quiz. They met one night per week at the hospital with Czarnowski for a study group before their shift began. They would engage in a round table discussion on that week’s quiz, with each member of the study group reading a quiz question and giving his or her answer.

“Incorrect answers would engender discussion,” said Czarnowski. “At times I would use a question to highlight an aspect of our work in the SPD or delve deeper into theory. The outcome of the certification study group was successful completion of the basic certification exam by all technician members.”

Based on this success, Czarnowski decided to incorporate the certification exam study group into the department’s weekly new hire orientation meetings. Because most of the hospital’s new hires had been inexperienced, the orientation period was 19 weeks long to ensure that all new technicians were fully trained to commence with independent work.

“The orientation meetings were a way for me to check in with the new hires and keep in regular contact as they progressed through their training with preceptors,” said Czarnowski. “I began to assign weekly chapter readings of the certification text and completion of the quiz. At each meeting, we would go through that week’s quiz in the same round table fashion. By the time each technician had completed his or her orientation period, her or she had gone through the majority of the text; many of them sat for the certification exam immediately, with a 100 percent success rate.”

Czarnowski says his current facility hires exclusively certified staff. With the support of CS/SPD department leadership, he is introducing an endoscope reprocessing certification program. As with the certification program he instituted at his previous hospital, the technicians arrive to the department before their scheduled work time one day per week. Czarnowski leads them through the quizzes in the endoscope reprocessing workbook on a chapter-by-chapter basis.

“The goal of this program is for each technician to increase his or her professional knowledge, and move toward providing the best care for our patients,” said Czarnowski. “I greatly look forward to our technicians successfully completing the endoscope reprocessing exam.”

In-house training classes

Marcy Konja, CRCST, CSPDT, CIS, CER, CHL, CSPDM, Senior Director, Sterile Processing Operations and Quality Improvement, SpecialtyCare, has over 30 years of sterile processing experience in healthcare and industrial settings. She points out how challenging it can be trying to train CS/SPD technicians “on the job.”

Often an individual will join a department working in a certain part of the sterile processing process (e.g., decontam, assembly/packaging), and once they become comfortable with those specific tasks they will be placed in these areas due to staffing shortages and the inability to properly train new members. The new staff members may never fully learn or understand all of the critical steps it takes to process instruments and return them to care areas.

Konja explains how SpecialtyCare provides a sterile processing training program where its team of educators comes on-site to a department and provides an intensive eight-week training course that includes classroom time, written assignments and examinations, and hands-on training. The technicians are required to successfully pass all tests and earn their certification within six months of the program’s completion.

Because of the intensity of the training and time commitment, the hospital must install a temporary team of sterile processing technicians (e.g., traveling technicians) to support day-to-day operations of the CS/SPD while its employed technicians take part in the program.

For hospitals systems or hospitals with a significant number of unfilled CS/SPD technician positions, SpecialtyCare will recruit candidates either with some sterile processing or medical experience or inexperienced “go-getters” with a desire to learn. These individuals undergo the same eight-week training program on-site at the hospital, during which time the hospital pays them a student wage. SpecialtyCare facilitates the training and provides the instructors and preceptors.

As with the existing staff training program, the technicians must successfully complete the course and pass all the exams. Once they achieve this, the hospital hires them as entry-level technicians and they are required to become certified within six months of hire. As Konja notes, a key benefit of this program is that the technicians learn their skills within the hospital where they will be employed so they are already familiar with the equipment, people and processes before joining the department as employees.

“Sometimes sterile processing isn’t seen as impacting patient care but instruments touch the patient and if we don’t take care of them in the proper way then the patient is the one at risk,” said Konja. “A lot of it has to do with lack of training and cutting corners. Many technicians will say, ‘I’ve always done it this way,’ but things are changing and what might have been fine 10 years ago isn’t up to the standards today. Technology is changing every day, IFUs are changing and more complex instruments are being introduced — CS/SPD professionals must keep up with all of these changes and it’s really difficult to do.”

To demonstrate the success of SpecialtyCare’s program, Konja tells the story of one hospital that did not require certification and was having issues with instrument quality and safety. While she and her team were told they could not “push certification” during the interim management coverage, they encouraged it and found the technicians were receptive to the idea. As a result, the department went from 20 percent certified staff members to 98 percent during SpecialtyCare’s engagement with the facility.

“At the end of each in-service, we would give the technicians CEU certificates explaining how they had earned them,” said Konja. “In the beginning some of them would throw the certificates in the trash because they didn’t care and didn’t want to be certified. But after continuing this over and over again, talking to the technicians about becoming certified and helping them with the class and study materials, people who had never wanted to become certified all of a sudden wanted to. Little by little we turned the whole department.”

Industry resources

Through its exclusive partnerships with Steris and 3M, Healthcare Purchasing News provides monthly continuing education articles authored by sterile processing experts. Credits are administered by IAHCSMM and CBSPD. Visit for our full library. Below are some additional resources.

3M’s Health Care Academy

To help central sterile professionals solve day-to-day challenges, enhance their expertise and advance their careers, 3M’s Health Care Academy offers curated learning paths that dive deep into specialty topics. The platform offers both on-demand and live CE-credited webinars of various lengths, helping CS professionals to prioritize education within their demanding schedules. An upcoming live webinar on August 8, “Utilizing ATP for Quantitative Cleaning Verification Testing in the Central Sterile Processing Department,” will discuss recommendations around quantitative cleaning verification testing, how to select which instruments to test, and how to implement an ongoing routine verification program. To register for this webinar and stay up-to-date on upcoming courses, sign up here:

Aesculap Academy

The Aesculap Academy provides a wide variety of course offerings, many of which are tailored to the continuing education needs of SPD professionals. The clinical education portfolio can be viewed at

Aseptic Technical Solutions

Aseptic Technical Solutions is an education/training and consulting company offering dynamic in-class and online sterile processing certification preparation classes to prepare students for the IAHCSMM certification exam. The curriculum consists of exercises, quizzes, progress exams and interactive labs that allow for impactful classroom discussions. The company offers an in-class program on Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. and Mondays from 6-8:30 p.m. at its Philadelphia training facility, and a flexible online class option for CS/SPD technicians throughout the U.S. For more information visit

Case Medical

Case Medical offers educational programs, published articles and training seminars on-site and online to the healthcare community covering numerous topics in support of best practices. The company recently provided an educational webinar focusing on Best Practices for Reprocessing Surgical Devices for Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASC). The Case Academy educational portal, located on Case Medical’s website ( under the “Case Academy” tab, currently offers eight tutorials with continuing education credits (CE) at no charge. The company’s clinical educators are also available to perform in-services and provide on-site education. Case Medical supports education and has over two dozen programs currently available for presentation to CS/SPD technicians and managers at national and regional conferences. It is revising its certification curriculum to meet current standards and guidelines. Please contact [email protected] for more information.


Healthmark offers a wide variety of CS/SPD continuing education programs, both on-site and online. These include:

  • Departmental CEU In-services: Healthmark’s highly experienced sales team provides 30-60 minute on-site classes, which are accredited by both CBSPD and IAHCSMM, through which attendees earn 1 CEU per class. Topics include: Monitoring the cleaning process, understanding your sonic cleaner, understanding peel pouches, understanding event related sterility, and many more. For more information call your local Healthmark representative or customer service at 800-521-6221. 
  • · On Healthmark’s website, CS/SPD professionals can find fun and educational games focused on the proper cleaning of surgical instruments. Games include: The PPE Police, The Lone Labeler and The Queen of Quality among many others. Visit for more information and to play. 

Key Surgical

The Key Surgical education program is a set of virtual learning labs that focus on important topics in the sterile processing industry ranging from properly cleaning and protecting surgical instrumentation, to navigating ways to collaborate, and incorporate industry standards into everyday practice. The online program is available for anyone to access and is specifically designed for individuals seeking or maintaining certification in CS/SPD.


Olympus University offers educational programs for nurses, technicians, biomedical engineers, administrators and materials managers to further their knowledge of GI and surgical instrument procedures, including certificate courses for reprocessing and endoscope training. For CS/SPD employees, Olympus University offers eight credit-bearing courses, including the five-credit Reprocessing Specialist Training course. This full day educational program reviews the best practices for endoscope care and reprocessing, enabling participants to recognize the important reprocessing steps related to patient care and safety. For more, visit:


STERIS IMS offers web-based courses to help prepare CS/SPD professionals for certification, each of which include a textbook and all necessary materials to prepare an individual for the certification exam. These include:

  • The Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) Readiness Training: Based on the CBSPD textbook, The Basics of Sterile Processing, the eight-week course prepares individuals for the CBSPD Technician Certification Exam. It consists of interactive webinars with two online sessions per week (one hour average).
  • CBSPD Readiness Training for Endoscopy Staff: Based on the CBSPD textbook, The Basics of Flexible Endoscope Reprocessing, this course prepares individuals for the Exam for Flexible Endoscope Reprocessor (CFER) certification. The eight-week course includes interactive webinars, with one online session per week (one hour average).
  • IAHCSMM Readiness Training: Based on the IAHCSMM textbook, Central Sterile Technical Manual, this 11-week course prepares individuals for the IAHCSMM SPD Technician Certification Exam. It consists of interactive webinars, two online sessions per week (one hour average) and guidance through the application process. 
About the Author

Kara Nadeau | Senior Contributing Editor

Kara Nadeau is Sterile Processing Editor for Healthcare Purchasing News.

Photo 77197506 © Korn Vitthayanukarun |
Image courtesy of Kat Velez, LeeSar Regional Service Center, Fort Myers, FL, HPN’s 2017 SPD of the Year
261278015 © Александр Лебедько |