The need for properly trained sterile processing staff members has grown with the increased sophistication of surgical procedures. In 1998, I conducted a survey of hospitals about various aspects of training sterile processing personnel, including the length of time for training employees to process general surgical and specialty surgical instruments. To evaluate trends, I conducted a second survey 10 years later. A majority of the 2008 respondents indicated that training would take three to six months (60%) or six to 12 months (31%) and that most preceptors (52%) spend two to three months working with new employees. A calculation of the cost to train a sterile processing technician to the competent level, including the salary of the preceptor, was $41,414 for 2008, an increase of more than 100% from the 1998 calculation. These costs must be weighed against the loss of revenue when procedures are delayed because of missing, damaged, or unclean instruments and the patient safety issues that could result if an employee is not well trained.
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