Required Hours of Experience
How many hours of hands-on experience are required?
400 hours of experience must be completed in a Sterile Processing department (SPD), on a paid or volunteer basis. These hours can be completed before testing or within six months of passing the exam (see options above). Hands-on experience provides an invaluable resource with which to better understand the standards, knowledge, and practices needed to be successful in an SPD and on the exam. These hours are broken down into the following areas of experience:
- Decontamination (120 hours)
- Preparing & Packaging Instruments (120 hours)
- Sterilization & Disinfection (96 hours)
- Storage & Distribution (24 hours)
- Quality Assurance Processes (24 hours)
- Equipment (16 hours)
Please be aware that HSPA does NOT provide placement services. It is your responsibility to find a department in which to complete your hours.
If you are unsure whether your department is authorized to sign off on your hours, please complete our form request using the button below:
DEPARTMENT AUTHORIZATION FORM
What is the rationale for requiring these hours?
HSPA believes that both training and experience for entry into practice contribute to the delivery of quality patient care. The rationale for the experience requirement of the Sterile Processing (SP) role is consistent with the most recent job analysis conducted, where 80% of the work of the SP is hands-on experience in a hospital setting. The 400 hours requirement affirms the need for a minimum of 10 weeks (400 hours) of experience.
The experience component, which is divided into six areas of hands-on work, is based on industry and Subject Matter Expert surveys and recommendations and demonstrates an applicant’s practical understanding and application of the knowledge assessed on the certification exam. The hands-on experience requirement represents the largest domain in the recent job analysis for SP technicians. The categories of experience, the tasks that comprise them, and the percentage of time required for each were calculated through an industry-wide job task analysis.
How do I submit my hours if I tested for Provisional CRCST?
If you tested as a Provisional CRCST, you may submit your hours of experience using the Provisional Certification Authentication Form below:
PROVISIONAL CERTIFICATION AUTHENTICATION FORM
(!) Failure to submit these hours within this designated time frame will result in a forfeiture of your Provisional CRCST certification and successful completion of a retake exam will be required. A one-time, 2-month extension is available to those who are currently working or volunteering within a SPD and approaching the end of their 6 month provisional period. An extension request must be made prior to the expiration of your provisional status, by the supervisor of the department in which you are completing your hours.
Verification of Requirements
Hands-on experience is required for your examination, and documentation of that experience must be provided on the exam application as indicated. No other documentation is necessary or acceptable.
The sections of your application documenting your experience must be completed by your department’s immediate manager/supervisor. An individual may never document their own experience.
Provided they are in a position above your own then experience hours can be documented by:
- Lead technicians, coordinators, or supervisors
- Managers, chiefs, directors, or administrators
- Hospital-based educators or trainers
Hours cannot be documented by technicians or private instructors. In order to verify experience, all contact information provided for the manager or supervisor documenting your hours must be current or your application will be rejected.
Hands-on hours can be accumulated on a paid or volunteer basis and you need not be currently employed or volunteering with a facility in order to test.
Applications requiring hands-on experience may be subject to verification before processing. Once selected for verification an application cannot be processed further until the manager/supervisor documenting the applicant’s hours of experience can be contacted and the experience confirmed. If the listed manager/supervisor cannot be reached for confirmation the application will be returned, unprocessed. If the manager/supervisor is reached but refutes the information submitted in any way, the application will be sent to the Certification Council for further investigation and review.
Applicants who have submitted a completed application and who are notified that they do not meet the eligibility requirements may appeal this decision by sending a written notice of the appeal to the Certification Council within 30 days of the time stamp on the eligibility decision. Appeals that cannot be resolved to the applicant’s satisfaction will be forwarded by the Certification Manager to the Certification Council for review along with any relevant information from the initial review of the application. Written notice of the final decision will be sent to the applicant within 30 days of the review. The decision of the Certification Council will be final.
Exam Preparation: Self-Study vs. Work Experience
Option 1: Online/Distance Learning Course
Purdue University offers an online or by mail course designed to help prepare individuals for the CRCST exam. You can find out more about the course by calling Purdue at 800.830.0269 or visiting their website.(!)
Option 2: Self-Study
You may purchase reference materials and choose to study on your own to prepare for the CRCST exam. For the current exam, you may utilize either the CS Technical Manual, 8th Ed (2016) or the SP Technical Manual, 9th Ed (2023). These, along with ANSI/AAMI’s ST79 (2017), and AORN’s Guidelines for Perioperative Practice (2023), were used for reference in creating the CRCST exam. You can order these publications through myhspa.org and aornstandards.org (!)
Option 3: Work Experience
You may take the exam based on your personal knowledge from experience in the field. It is not required that you take or pass a preparatory course or study materials on your own. Applicants can apply directly to take the exam without purchasing study materials or enrolling in a course.
- Courses are preparation for the exam only. Passing a course does not equate to certification.
- HSPA’s Education department has developed the materials above as an optional method to assist individuals in preparing for the CRCST exam. The material was developed and produced independently from the Certification Council, which does not develop, require, approve, or endorse any specific training materials.
Content & Composition of the Exam
Exam Content Outline
The CRCST exam will test your proficiency in the following areas:
- Cleaning, Decontamination & Disinfection
- Preparation & Packaging
- Sterilization Process
- Patient Care Equipment
- Sterile Storage & Inventory Management
- Documentation & Record Maintenance
- Customer Relations
Each of the seven knowledge domains listed above is comprised of a series of sub-domains which are explained in further detail in the CRCST Exam Content Outline (updated June, 2018). The Content Outline also describes further detail on the type and amount of content covered in each section, as well as its weight on the certification exam.
- The exam is computer-based and no writing instruments are needed (a written version of the exam is not available)
- The current version of the test is comprised of 150 multiple choice questions
- You will have three hours in which to complete the exam
- Questions can be marked for review and answered or changed later in the exam
- A 15-minute tutorial describing how to take the exam on the computer precedes the test and is also available online, below