The Erlanger Institute of Healthcare and Innovation at Howard adds Sterile Processing Certification to Institute Offerings
Posted on 10/28/2020
Photo: Curtaelyn Martin, an 11th grader at The Howard School, working in the Erlanger Institute of Healthcare and Innovation Sterile Processing pathway.The Erlanger Institute of Healthcare and Innovation at Howard added a new Sterile Processing pathway as an option for students as the program entered its third year. STERIS Instrumentation Processing Solutions supported the development of the career path at Howard. Michelle Powell, an Erlanger employee, teaches the students in this program that features an intensive curriculum to prepare students for jobs in the sterile process industry after high school.

The program's curriculum includes an intense focus on Diagnostic Medicine and Microbiology. Powell collaborated with the Howard Science Department coach Jessica Ghazi and Stem School Chattanooga's Biology instructor, Shannon Seigle, to incorporate the 4K microscope at STEM School into class instruction. Last fall, Geoff Millener, with the Innovative District, wrote a grant to fund the curriculum's development and implementation.

In the Sterile Processing Certification program, both in-person and virtual students are immersed in industry-focused problem-based learning projects. They apply concepts learned in the classroom to real-world problems. The student's most recent projects include assessing images from the 4K microscope to explore antibiotic resistance if a patient acquired an infection while in the hospital for surgery. Students have also explored the uses of Howard’s VW eLab to develop or redesign medical devices. The skillset developed during both projects will help students become proficient problem solvers and critical thinkers, which are skills that students need to succeed as they enter the medical sterilization industry.

Students who complete the program will earn a sterile processing technician certification and be prepared for entry-level positions with a starting pay of 15.00 an hour. The most appealing part of the process is that Steris built a state-of-the-art facility near the Howard community, which provides students quick access to employment. Moreover, students who participate in this pathway will have a jumpstart as they pursue careers as surgical technicians, neurosurgeons, and biomedical engineers. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to gain practical employment experience while working toward advanced degrees and certifications. The new Sterile Processing pathway will provide students with another career option in healthcare and expose students to a skillset in demand in the industry.

"This pathway will not only provide the student's knowledge and experience within the field of sterile processing but also expose them to many opportunities in medical research and innovation" Michelle Powell RRT Health Innovation Coordinator Erlanger Health System.

The Erlanger Institute of Healthcare and Innovation was one of the first Future Ready Institutes combining with a community partner established in Hamilton County. The first two years of the Institute implementation proved to be a success as students participated in authentic industry experiences. Those experiences included Erlanger Hospital tours, job shadowing experiences, social skills training with Erlanger's workforce development, BLS First Aid and CPR training, Stop the Bleed training and continuous interfacing with healthcare professionals as guest speakers.

Photo: Curtaelyn Martin, an 11th grader at The Howard School, working in the Erlanger Institute of Healthcare and Innovation Sterile Processing pathway.