Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST)
The Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) certification program is designed to recognize entry level and existing technicians who have demonstrated the experience, knowledge and skills necessary to provide competent services as a central service technician. CRCST's are integral members of the healthcare team who are responsible for decontaminating, inspecting, assembling, disassembling, packaging and sterilizing reusable surgical instruments or devices in a healthcare facility that are essential for patient safety.
To earn CRCST certification, candidates are required to successfully demonstrate skills through completion of hands-on work experience as well as successful completion of an examination developed to measure the understanding of general central services and infection prevention topics. CRCST certificants are required to recertify annually through completion of continuing education requirements.
The CRCST Certification is accredited by both the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
How to Prepare for the Examination
IAHCSMM offers multiple educational tools to prepare technicians for their exam.
Please Note: Courses are preparation for the exam; passing a course does not equate to Certification. IAHCSMM's Education Department has developed materials as an optional method to assist individuals in preparing for the CRCST exam. Those materials were developed and produced independently of the Certification Council, which does not develop, require, approve, or endorse any specific training materials..
To prepare for the CRCST certification, the following options are available:
- Online Course: Purdue University offers an online course that is designed to help prepare Central Service professionals for the CRCST exam. You can find out more about the course by calling 800.830.0269 or by visiting Purdue's website
- Self Study: You may purchase reference materials and choose to study on your own to prepare for the CRCST exam. IAHCSMM's CS Technical Manual (8th ed.) was used as a reference in creating the exam, along with ANSI/AAMI's ST79 (2017 ed.), and AORN's Perioperative Standards and Recommended Practices (2018 ed.). You can order these publications through the IAHCSMM store and the AORN website.
- 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 nor study materials on your own. Applicants can apply directly to take the exam without purchasing study materials or enrolling in a course.
CRCST certification requires that you pass the certification exam and complete 400 hours of hands-on experience in a CS department. These hours can be completed before testing or within 6 months of passing the exam. IAHCSMM highly recommends completing, or at least beginning, your hours of experience before testing. Hands-on experience provides an invaluable resource with which to better understand the standards, knowledge, and practices needed to be successful in a CS department and on the CRCST Exam.
The CRCST exam will test your proficiency in these 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. Further detail on the type and amount of content covered in each section, as well as its weight on the certification exam can also be found in the CRCST Exam Content Outline. Please click here to see the current CRCST Exam Content Outline (updated June, 2018).
The exam is computer based and no writing instruments are needed (a paper and pencil version of the exam is not available.) The test is comprised of 150 multiple choice questions and you will have 3 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, here. For more information regarding the testing process please see the Certification Testing section.
Requirements for the Examination: Full & Provisional Certification
Along with passing the certification exam, 400 hours of hands-on experience are required in order to obtain CRCST status.
IAHCSMM 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 central services role is consistent with the most recent job analysis conducted, where 80% of the work of the CS is hands-on experience in a hospital setting. The 400 hours requirement affirms the need for a minimum of 10 weeks (400 hours) experience.
The experience component, which is divided into six areas of hands-on work based on industry and Subject Matter Expert surveys and recommendations, demonstrates an applicant’s practical understanding and application of the knowledge assessed on the certification exam. The hands-on experience requirement represents the largest domains in the recent job analysis for central services technicians. The following categories of experience, the tasks that comprise them, and the percentage of time required for each was calculated through an industry-wide job task analysis.
To apply for the CRCST examination you must satisfy the requirements of one of the following options:
Full Certification (Recommended)
Prior to applying to test, complete a minimum of 400 hours of hands-on experience in a Central Service Department, on a paid or volunteer basis. This experience must have occurred within the past five years at most, and must be documented on the exam application by the manager/supervisor who oversaw your work. These hours must be broken down into the following areas of experience (as fully detailed on the exam application, available under the Forms & Applications section):
- Decontamination (120 Hours)
- Preparing & Packaging Instruments (120 Hours)
- Sterilization & Disinfection (96 Hours)
- Storage & Distribution (24 Hours)
- Quality Assurance Processes (24 Hours)
- Equipment (16 Hours)
Complete and provide a manager/supervisor's documentation of a minimum of 400 hours of hands-on experience in a Central Sterile Department, on a paid or volunteer basis, within 6 months of passing the certification exam.
Documentation of the completed hours of hands on experience must be submitted to IAHCSMM prior to the 6 month expiration date. 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. All applicable fess will apply to this retake examination.
A one-time, 2 month extension is available to those who are currently working or volunteering within a CS department and approaching the end of their 6 month provisional certification period. An extension request must be made prior to the expiration of your provisional status, by the manager/supervisor of the department in which you are completing your hours. Extensions are not available to those who are not currently volunteering or employed within a CS department.
Please be aware that IAHCSMM does not provide placement services; it is your responsibility to find a department in which to complete your hours.
Verification of Examination 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 in a leadership role within the department cannot document their own experience; they are still required to have their immediate manager complete all required documentation. The required experience must be current, meaning that it has to have been accrued within the past 5 years at most.
Provided they are in a position above your own then experience hours can be documented by:
- Lead Techs, 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. All hours must be completed prior to testing, with the exception of those testing provisionally for the CRCST exam.
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 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 CC will be final.