Certified Instrument Specialist (CIS)

Technology changes. Standards update. Instrumentation evolves. The learning curve for Central Service/Sterile Processing (CS/SP) professionals is steep and ever-changing, and the demands placed on them ever-growing. The Certified Instrument Specialist (CIS) certification program is designed to recognize individuals who have demonstrated the experience, knowledge and skills necessary to provide competent services as an advanced instrument specialist in the CS/SP department. CIS’s are essential members of the healthcare team who are responsible for demonstrating the knowledge and recognition of medical instruments and instrument support system functions necessary to help ensure the safe and timely delivery of surgical instruments to patients.

To earn CIS Certification, candidates are required to successfully demonstrate skills through the completion of hands-on work experience as well as the successful completion of an examination developed to measure the understanding of all instrument reprocessing functions (including instrument support system functions, instrumentation practice skills, knowledge and recognition of medical instruments, plus CS tech responsibilities). CIS certificants are required to recertify annually through completion of continuing education requirements.

How to Prepare for the Examination

Those interested in becoming a Certified Instrument Specialist (CIS) can prepare in one of the following ways:

Please Note: Online/distance learning courses are not available for the CIS. IAHCSMM has developed the materials below as an optional method to assist individuals in preparing for the CIS exam. They were developed and produced independently from the Certification Council, which does not develop, require, approve, or endorse any specific training materials.

  • Self Study: You may purchase reference materials and choose to study on your own to prepare for the CIS exam. IAHCSMM’s Instrument Resource Manual, 1st Edition (2018) was used as a reference in creating the exam, along with IAHCSMM’s CS Technical Manual, 8th Edition (2016), Rick Schultz’s The World of Surgical Instruments – The Definitive Inspection Textbook (2018), and ANSI/AAMI’s ST79 (2017). You can order these publications through the IAHCSMM Store.
  • 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.

CIS certification also requires the completion of 200 hours of hands-on experience in a CS Department prior to 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 CIS Exam. More information on the accumulation of these hours can be found under the Requirements tab above.

Content & Composition of the Examination

The CIS exam will test your proficiency in the following areas:

  1. Instrument Cleaning & Decontamination Processes
  2. Instrument Identification
  3. Instrument Inspection, Testing & Assembly
  4. Preparation & Packaging
  5. Sterilization & High-Level Disinfection (HLD)
  6. Human Factors Impacting Instrument Systems

Each of the six knowledge domains listed above is comprised of a series of sub-domains which are explained in further detail in the CIS 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 updated CIS Exam Content Outline.

The exam is computer based and no writing instruments are needed (a written version of the exam is not available.) The current version of 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 CRCST certification must be obtained prior to taking the CIS exam, and must be kept current to maintain your CIS certification.

You must complete and provide documentation (on the exam application as indicated) of a minimum of 200 hours of hands-on experience in a Central Sterile Department, on a paid or volunteer basis, prior to testing. These hours must be broken down into the following areas of experience:

  1. Instrument Decontamination (92 hours)
  2. Instrument Assembly (92 hours)
  3. Instrument Information System Management (12 hours)
  4. Surgery Observation (4 hours)