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So you failed your Sterile Processing certification exam?

Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is, you're not alone. Nearly 40% of Sterile Processing exam takers in the US walk away from the test with a failure notice.

And the bad news? Well, if you're reading this article, that means you're probably one of them. If not, you may be an educator, manager, co-worker, or friend who is trying to help someone cope with the gut-punch they just received after their exam.

Since I know the last thing you want to do after studying for months is read ANOTHER long article, I'll cut to the chase on this one.

#1 Failure does not define you.

Yep, I went with the cliché. But seriously, I get it. This exam was personal for you. It's your job after all. Everyone in your department probably knew you were going to take it, and everyone will be asking how you did when you get back to work. Unless you kept it all a big secret, folks will know that you didn't pass right off the bat.

So what? Those people in the testing center don't know you. They don't know how hard you worked, how long you studied, or how many other responsibilities you had at home that made it harder for you to study. And since they don't know you, they can't define who you are. This is one test, and one grade. You are defined by so much more.

#2 Patients don't care if you're certified.

Take a step back for a second and think about this -- no patient ultimately cares if you have credentials. No one goes into their appendectomy saying to themselves, "Man, I hope that SPD tech is good at multiple choice!" At the end of the day, they just want a safe surgery. They want to come in and go back home in one piece, no complications, no issues.

So even if you bombed the exam this first time around, you've still got moms, dads, sisters, brothers, grandmas, grandpas, and babies who are counting on you to apply what you do know and keep them safe. A few letters on your name badge won't make you a superhero. Knowing your job and doing your job safely -- every instrument, every time. That's what Sterile Processing heroes are made of.

#3 Certification is not the end goal.

Even though certification is a great goal to have, just keep in mind that it's not an end goal. You don't arrive at the top of any mountain of knowledge just because you get a certificate in the mail. Even though it is an accomplishment to celebrate, think about it as more of a pit stop on the long road of career growth. These industry certifications are entry level, baseline certifications. They determine the bare minimum knowledge someone should have to be in our field. So that means that the majority of information, education, and insight into Sterile Processing isn't covered by any certification textbook. That's knowledge that you may already have and should continue building every day -- regardless of when you eventually pass your exam.