AAMI News March 2018

ACI Awards First Certifications to Industrial Sterilization Professionals

Following the inaugural testing period this past December, 23 dedicated professionals have earned the right to be called Certified Industrial Sterilization Specialists (CISS) from the AAMI Credentials Institute (ACI). Of these, 15 also earned credentials in ethylene oxide sterilization (CISS-EO), six in radiation sterilization (CISS-RAD), and two in moist heat sterilization (CISS-MH). Half a dozen earned multiple designations.

‘Just Do It’

Jade Schlesser
Jade Schlesser

Jade Schiesser, a sterilization scientist at Boston Scientific in Minneapolis, MN, had been waiting patiently for a sterilization certification to become available. Once it did, he jumped at the opportunity and signed up to take the core exam in addition to all three specialty exams. He encouraged those who are considering getting certified to do the same—just “do it.”

“I’m a lifelong learner who strives to keep improving professionally and personally,” Schiesser said. “Certification allows me to demonstrate I have the knowledge to be successful in my role and shows that I am interested in continuing my career development. I’ve been in medical device sterilization for more than five years now and love that it’s a field where I can still learn new things almost every day.”

To study for the CISS exam, Schiesser used the resources outlined in the ACI handbook and dug into “any article or standard” that he could find. Although he couldn’t lean on others who previously took the exam for tips, that didn’t stop him from reaching out for advice.

“I reached out to more senior sterilization scientists for any relevant learning materials and was sure to ask questions about anything I didn’t understand,” he said. “I have also been on several AAMI standards working groups, which definitely helps one more deeply understand a topic.”

Demonstrating Competency

To earn a CISS designation, test takers must demonstrate expertise in the scientific principles of sterilization, such as microbiology, physics, and chemistry, as well as knowledge of sterilization processing, quality management systems, risk management, and regulatory requirements.

“In the past, we had to base perceived competency on things like a résumé or self-proclamation. Now that the CISS certification is available, it will allow people to demonstrate their true technical knowledge,” said Clark Houghtling, vice president of business development and technical affairs at Cosmed Group, who helped develop the CISS exam. “Obtaining this certification could be one of the factors that gives an edge to a job applicant and, at the same time, will allow a prospective employer to ensure that they are getting a highly qualified individual.”

Advice for Passing the Exam

Thomas McCallister
Thomas McCallister

Thomas McCallister, a quality assurance technician at Midwest  Sterilization Corporation (MSC) in Jackson, MO, said he decided to pursue a CISS certification to build confidence. After four years working at MSC, McCallister considers himself to still be relatively new to the field.

McCallister’s advice for preparing for the CISS exam? Study early and use all of the resources you can find.

“There is an extensive amount of material covered on this exam, and simply knowing the standards or technical information reports (TIRs) without understanding the applications, in my opinion, is not enough to pass,” he said. “I would recommend taking the sterilization courses offered by AAMI. I took the Ethylene Oxide Sterilization for Medical Devices Course the year before my exam, and I felt it covered all the major areas.”

The next testing window for ACI’s CISS exam runs from May 1–15, and applications must be received by April 13. More information about the CISS credential and other ACI certifications is available at www.aami.org/aci.