By Janice Lovekamp, BS, CST/CSFA, CSPDT, FAST, Program Director Surgical Technology, Lincoln Land Community College

Serving as a site visitor for ARC/STSA has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my career as a surgical technologist. I started my career as a surgical technologist in 1994 and would have never imagined that I would be where I am today or where my career would take me. I have never been afraid of change or a challenge and have explored nearly every career path available for surgical technologists.

Several years ago, I was looking for a change. I had been a sales representative for an orthopedic company, and the travel and long hours were starting to take their toll on me. A community college in the area was starting a new surgical technology program and was seeking a program director. I was intrigued by the position but was also afraid to apply because I had no background in education. I didn’t let that fear stop me but rather was up for the challenge of learning something new. I was hired for the position, and I couldn’t be more grateful to my employer for taking a chance on me. It has been a wild ride and an opportunity for which I will be forever grateful.

As a new program director, I quickly found out there is so much to do and learn! Just like there are acronyms and lingo of the OR, there is the same in education. Whether you are stepping into an existing program or starting a new program, the feeling of being overwhelmed is the same. I often asked myself “How do I navigate this process?” or “Can I do this?” Especially when it came to accreditation. For any program director who has gone through the accreditation process or prepared for a site visit, you know how daunting of a task it can be. Many program directors fear the whole process and ARC/STSA, but they shouldn’t. I was one of them when I was going through the initial accreditation process. I quickly determined that accreditation is not meant to be a scary process but rather thought of as a continuous quality improvement project. Every program director wants their surgical technology program to be the best it can be, and experiencing a site visit should be seen as a blessing not a curse. ARC/STSA is there to support you and wants the same goals for your program as you do. Quality surgical technology education is what it’s all about!

I became a site visitor shortly after my program went through its initial accreditation process. The site visitors I had were incredible and encouraged me to consider becoming one. I was very reluctant at first because I questioned whether I knew enough to contribute or to be of any assistance. I quickly learned that is not the case because ARC/STSA provides so many resources and support to its site visitors, just as they do to surgical technology programs. Not only are they available to provide assistance with the process, they provide training on the accreditation process for both programs and site visitors, publish the Standards Interpretive Guide, provide mentorship opportunities for site visitors, have developed new tools to utilize when collecting data, and streamlined the reporting process for both programs and site visitors.

Serving as a site visitor is gratifying, and I feel like I am paying it forward. Not only do I learn things from other programs, but I truly feel like I am contributing to surgical technology education. As a site visitor, I have the opportunity to see how other programs are contending with retention issues as well as what unique and creative teaching techniques other programs are utilizing to deliver the curriculum. What I have gained from those experiences has allowed me to incorporate different methods and ideas into my teaching, thereby strengthening my own program in the process. Plus, I have had the opportunity to meet so many incredible people during my travels. I truly enjoy being a site visitor. It’s my opportunity to give back to the profession that I love.

Janice Lovekamp lives in Decatur, Illinois. She graduated from Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1994 with an AAS Degree in Surgical Technology and with a BS in Workforce Education and Development from SIU Carbondale in 2013. Janice has been a member of AST and a CST since 1994 and a CSFA since 2006. She was recently named a Fellow of the Association of Surgical Technologists (FAST). Janice is the Surgical Technology Program Director at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Illinois, and also is PRN at Decatur Memorial Hospital in Decatur, Illinois.