Sterile Processing Training and Education Best Practices

In August, we brought our Voice of the Customer panel together to delve into a topic that SPD professionals across country identified as top-of-mind in our 2023 SPD State of the Industry Report: Training & Education.

We collaborated with Gene Ricupito, Sr. Project Manager, Sterile Processing at UCSF, to further explore SPD training and education best practices.



A key component to a successful training & education program is frequency.

  • Annual: Training and education to support and maintain competency is required to be completed on an annual basis per the Joint Commission.
  • Monthly: Teams should be supported with in-services monthly to keep themselves well-versed in their instrumentation. This also applies to in-services associated with equipment used by technicians throughout the department.


Reviewing and Revising

Ricupito states that all training and educational materials in regular use within a department should be reviewed and revised at least annually to ensure accuracy and relevance.

Further, Ricupito explained, revisions need to be made whenever a device changes, is replaced with a newer model, or when a new instrument or piece of equipment is introduced to the department. The best way to ensure this happens is to have a pre-existing process that’s able to flag a needed revision to a manager or educator.

On its surface, the idea of a system that flags the need for revisions may seem like a process that’s too good to be true, but Ricupito has a solution that any department can implement: when a piece of equipment is being replaced with a newer or updated model, have the vendor issue a no-charge quote resulting in a no-charge purchase order. No-charge PO’s are able to serve as the trigger for inquiry into whether training or educational resources need to be updated, or if an in-service from a vendor needs to be scheduled.



Retention is a critical aspect of any training and education program. All the training and education in the world won’t make any difference if those being trained and taught are unable to retain the material presented to them. Ricupito expanded on the discussion we had with our VOC panel with a few suggestions to ensure retention:

  • Regular competency checks: Annual competency checks are fine, but the minimum required. Conducting competency checks more regularly can help to identify and address retention concerns early.
  • Find coachable moments: Actively engaging your team on a frequent basis within the department can help create coachable moments; opportunities to ask team members whether they’re struggling with anything and addressing it on the spot. These coaching moments offer a glimpse into where training and education retention issues may be bubbling up across the department.
  • Ensure uptake: Some technicians will avoid uptake, meaning they are intimidated by a certain topic, instrument, or piece of equipment and actively avoid obtaining the knowledge to master it due to its complexity. Ricupito encourages managers, educators, and team leaders to identify uptake aversion and address it head on, determining the root of the insecurity related to the topic, dispelling it, and helping the teammate achieve an understanding of it.



With an abundance of sterile processing training and educational materials available on the internet, determining which resources are credible and worthwhile can seem a daunting task. Many videos, for instance, come from well-intentioned, but unverified parties. If you don’t validate an educational resource before it’s presented to your team, they could become misinformed or pick up bad habits you don’t want in your department.

Here are a few tips to help verify resources to use in your department:

  • Vendors: Vendors have taken on a very active role within sterile processing producing and delivering training and educational materials that departments can trust. And while in-services are a prominent aspect of the training vendors offer, it’s not the only game in town. Many vendors offer CE’s and other educational tools that departments can use for free.
  • Applying knowledge: Ricupito pointed out that the best way to verify the credibility of a training or educational resource is to sit down and watch it yourself as an educator or manager. As an expert in the field and leader of your department, you’re able to determine whether the content is credible.
  • Collaborate: Managers and educators can also collaborate and assess materials together, discussing whether the training material adequately covers what they need in their department, as well as the credibility of the source.



Training and education is a top issue in sterile processing at the moment, and adhering to best practices can help departments make the most of the resources used in their department. A few key items to keep in mind include:

  1. Frequency and regularity are key. Conducting annual competency training and assessments helps keep your department up to speed (and in compliance with TJC), while monthly in-servicing keeps your team operating efficiently.
  2. Review and revise. It’s important to review and revise training materials regularly as well. Updating it when changes or new devices are implemented is key, and coming up with processes to ensure these updates happen is important.
  3. Retention is required. Ensuring that your team is retaining what they learn from training and educational resources is vital for training efforts to be effective.
  4. Verify the credibility of training materials. There’s a lot of resources available to you, leverage your vendors, your knowledge, and your educator/manager counterpart to determine what to use in your department.


Interested in free CE’s for your team? Check ours out here!


About: Voice of the Customer Committee

The Voice of the Customer Committee is a panel of healthcare and instrument reprocessing professionals who have graciously donated their time to share their expertise and guidance on current challenges faced by the instrument reprocessing community. Through sharing their insights, experiences, and best practices, we have been given the opportunity to share these findings with our readership. We’d like to thank our VOC members for their outstanding input and insights, as well as their time! Thank you for your continued partnership, and all you do.