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The Field


IAHCSMM vs. CBSPD. Which SPD certification is better?


by David Bierwirth-ST, CRCST, CHL

When you work in the sterile processing world, either as a technician or in a leadership position, the subject of certification arises often. The importance of the certifications cannot be understated. I have had many conversations with sterile processing employees over the years about sterile processing certification.  I have always promoted certification as a whole and lean toward IAHCSMM-International Association of Healthcare Central Service Material Management, for many reasons. I have also had spirited conversations with sterilization techs about CBSPD-Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution, certification and realize that both certifications have a place in the industry.

Certification in sterile processing is critical in the profession as I have written about in past blogs. So many employers seek certified technicians to fill the high demand positions in hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers and offices.  If you log onto and search
“sterile processing technician,” you will find hundreds of open jobs that most often require holding a CRCST or CSPDT certification. These certifications are either a requirement at the time of hire or within 6 to 12 months of start.  

So which certification body is better? In this short blog I will highlight the positive aspects of each.

CRCST from IAHSCMM is an annual membership after gaining the initial certification. They first require 12 continuing education credits each year.  This helps keep you apprised of new technologies and builds knowledge. Each credit is an hour of typically on-line education.  Being certified also allows you access to the member side of the website. IAHCSMM has an annual sterile processing conference that will be held this year in Columbus, OH, October 9 -11. In the past this conference has been an attendance required event, but last year that all changed. As did so many other events, the conference was viral in 2020.   For this event, it turned out to be a good thing.  The conference was available to more members and non-members through the internet.  I believe this yearly conference is one of the big differentiators between the two organizations. 

CSPDT from CBSPD has a five-year membership period and you build renewal points for a total of 100 CEUs-continuing education points to be eligible to renew for the next five years. These points are a mixture of credit of active employment within the sterile processing industry and continuing education.  I think the employment requirement is the biggest differentiator that sets CBSPD apart from IAHCSMM. It shows the employer that the applicant has been active in the industry and therefore might be a better candidate to hire. 

So which group should you belong to? I have personally held the CRCST over the years and it has allowed me to pursue management in the sterile processing industry. In the past few years, I have gained the CHL or Certified Healthcare Leader certificate with the CRCST granted by IAHSCMM.   This may sound funny, but they were my first choice primarily because of their prominent online presence.   The information they provide online has always been robust and the content they provide is very thorough, even to the non-member.  However, I believe that after researching all the information for this blog, you should belong to both!  Yes, I can hear it now both from certified techs and prospective employees considering certification, “are you crazy?”  Having both IAHCSMM and CBSPD certificates shows, without a doubt to employers and industry professionals, you are serious about your career and patient care.  Now, I need to obtain the CSPDT to add to my CRCST and CHL! 

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