QUEENSBURY — SUNY Adirondack has created a true school-to-career pipeline for an in-demand, well-paid, entry-level hospital role.
The community college is unveiling a free 12-week course that would train a student for a job as a sterile processing technician.
These particular technicians perform and participate in decontamination, cleaning, assembling, packaging, storage and sterilization of both reusable surgical instrumentation and equipment, as well as other reusable equipment in a hospital. They play a critical role in preventing infection.
The course, which starts later this month, is capped at 15 students, according to Caelynn Prylo, SUNY Adirondack’s assistant dean for Continuing Education and Workforce Innovation, which oversees the institution’s noncredit workforce training programs.
SUNY Adirondack is using a portion of a rolling, $253,000 Workforce Readiness Academies Program Reimagine Grant from the state and federal departments of labor to offer the training.
Upon successful completion, the student is guaranteed a job interview at Saratoga Hospital, which presently employs 42 of these technicians, and has seven vacancies for the role, according to Clay Landry, the hospital’s certified central processing director.
The course is designed to take somebody who doesn’t know anything about what a hospital’s central supply or sterile service technician does. The only prerequisite is a high school diploma or equivalency diploma.
This class will teach them instrumentation — knowing what surgical instruments, specialty devices, and tools are used and reused within a hospital setting, Prylo said.
They learn about the decontamination process: packaging, sterilization of surgical instruments, and how to clean things that patients use within a room such as beds and equipment.
Students will also be exposed to the proper medical terminology.
“They need to understand the language in order to be successful in that environment,” Prylo said. “They get a little bit about anatomy, physiology and microbiology. What are the types of pathogens we’re trying to prevent in this role, and then prevention processes. How to prevent infection in a hospital setting. The decontamination and disinfection processes that are necessary to keep that environment as safe and clean as possible.”
The course is designed to prepare somebody to sit for a national certification exam. Saratoga Hospital requires the certification within 18 months of being hired for the role, while most other hospital would require the national certification either in advance or sometime shortly after hire, Prylo said.
The job is ideal for someone who is attentive to detail, wants to do meaningful work, but doesn’t necessarily want to be upfront and face to face providing patient care, Prylo said.
According to LinkedIn, sterilization technician was the fourth-fastest growing career for entry-level job seekers, with starting salaries $35,000 and up depending on experience.
In a statement, the university said the positions available at the hospital include a competitive benefits package with medical, dental and vacation time.
This is the first time SUNY Adirondack has ever offered the training program.
The course is 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from March 22 to June 14 at SUNY Adirondack Saratoga on Route 9 in Wilton. No classes will be held April 12 and 14.
Noticing Saratoga Hospital was hiring for the position, Prylo said she reached out its human resources department and asked about its interest in talking to students who completed the course.
Prylo said she was told that they would interview every single one of them.
“We’ve got the training funds, we’ve got the program and we’ve got the job lined up at the end,” she said. “We just need the students to raise their hand and come forward and say, ‘This is something I could see myself doing,’ and be willing to do the work for a 12-week program.”
Landry said the job is in demand because the complexity of hospital instruments is greater than when he started in the industry 35 years ago.
“They did not do the laparoscopic procedures (to check the organs in the abdomen). They didn’t do minimally-invasive procedures. So, as time changes, minimally-invasive procedures are more common than not,” the Saratoga Hospital official said.
There’s an ongoing concern about “bioburden,” meaning blood or bone left in instruments and why it’s important to clean them, Landry said.
“We also do a lot of robotic procedures,” he said. “These robotic procedures require instrumentation that cannot be taken apart. So they have to be cleaned entirely different, and they’re not instruments that you can see any kind of blood or anything like that on the inside of the instruments – because they’re so long and you can’t get in there.”
It is important to follow the procedures the manufacturer used to validate getting their instruments through the FDA process, to show that they can be cleaned and sterilized effectively, Landry said.
“It even comes down to the type of detergent they’re using – whether it’s an alkaline or pH neutral,” he said. “Many instruments require all different kinds of cleaning and sterilization practices. Some are so detailed that they require extended sterilization.”
Central processing goes beyond just surgeries, too, he said. They also work for the floors, to catheterize patients, among other tasks.
Commending SUNY Adirondack for launching the training, Landry noted that there were very few programs in New York that offered training for the certification, even during the state push to make it mandatory for a technician to work toward attaining the certification.
“They’re just now catching up with with what’s going on,” he said.
For several years, Saratoga Hospital has been paying staff bonuses for holding the certification, according to Landry.
This has resulted in lesser turnover in the job because the worker is invested in the program, he said.
“You know, everybody asks when they go for surgery: how’s my anesthesiologist? How’s my surgeon? No one ever says how are my instruments cleaned? It’s important stuff these days,” Landry said.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.
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Categories: Saratoga County