By Jeffrey Lee Bidwell, CST, CSFA, CSA, KCSA, MA, FAST

After reading a site visitor’s perspective in the ARC/STSA newsletter, I thought it would be a good idea to write a short article from the perspective of the program. As a former ARC/STSA board member and current site visitor, I have spoken to many program directors over the years, and everyone has the same fears when they receive the dreaded letter/email stating your program’s visit is due for its on-site evaluation. A few months ago, I received such a letter. It was time for the Madisonville Community College to receive its on-site visit as part of the continuing accreditation process. What made our experience a little different is that we have two programs, surgical technology and surgical first assisting, in the same accreditation cycle. So, what could be worse than having one on-site evaluation? The answer would be having two on-site evaluation visits. Initially, I began to have the same worries that the majority of program directors and instructors have described to me over the years when the roles were reversed and I was the visitor. Questions like, where do I begin? Where are the annual reports? Are student files in order? PAC committee list, evidence of meetings, surveys, board results, clinical logs, evaluations, lab tools, who would the visitors be? Should I start drinking Bourbon now or after the visit?

I took a day off and began to review the long list of required documents to have available for the on-site team for the visits. I ordered 20 or so large notebooks and decided to prepare for the surgical technology visit first. Like most program directors, I am not the best record keeper. I had stuffed yearly surgical technology annual reports and documentation into a file drawer in the office. Several years ago, I had performed a site visit as a visitor and was amazed at one program that had done an amazing job in record keeping, placing all their annual reports, documentation, case logs and everything item you could think of into organized notebooks each year. The program director informed me she did this every year in order to always be prepared for a visit. I thought, when I get back to Kentucky, I am going to do the same thing. Of course this never occurred, and I simply stuffed annual reports and documentation into an office drawer.  It took weeks to organize the annual reports and documentation to verify the reports into organized notebooks for the visiting team.

A week before the visits, the chair of the visiting team contacted me to go over the schedule and to see if I had any questions. I went over with the chair what I had prepared regarding the documentation and required item lists. A week later, the team arrived as scheduled performing the review of the surgical technology program on Monday and the surgical first assistant program on Tuesday. The team was very professional going through the documentation to verify the annual reports, student files, case logs, evaluations, surveys, etc. The weeks of preparation in preparing the requested on-site items and organization of items in order for the team to verify the annual reports had paid off. The team interviewed current and past students, employers, facilities, advisory board members, faculty, and administration and took a great deal of time speaking with me. The team of three individuals followed CAAHEP guidelines and were professional during the two-day visit. As most program directors following a site visit, I was exhausted from the experience, but I have to slightly admit the experience has the left the programs in better/more organized condition. My advice to any program director is to keep your program files, annual plans, annual reports, items to verify the annual reports, clinical case logs and evaluations in well-organized notebooks each year as you go. It will save you from weeks of trying to organize all the items when you receive your letter/email for an on-site visit. Read reviews & shop online best robots for kids – #1 rating TOP 10 Robots for kids at Robottler at best prices

Jeffrey Lee Bidwell, CST, CSFA, CSA, KCSA, MA, FAST, is the program director of surgical technology and surgical first assisting, Madisonville Community College