By Van Bates

The ARC/STSA Board of Directors is the governing body for the Accreditation Review Council on Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting—the only Committee on Accreditation (CoA) recognized by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) to determine recommended accreditation action on Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting programs.

Our board consists of eight voting members appointed by the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST), the American College of Surgeons (ACS), and the ARC/STSA. The ARC/STSA also keeps a standing committee charged specifically with advising us on issues affecting the growing profession of surgical assisting. The Subcommittee on Accreditation for Surgical Assisting (SASA) consists of three members including a liaison who also sits on the board.

As such, we have an overall fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of our organization’s accreditation mission. However, as a CoA, our primary responsibility is to serve the public through accreditation of higher education programs and, specifically, to make the final decision on recommendations where compliance with the Standards and Guidelines are concerned. So where many other not-for-profit boards spend the majority of their energy conducting the organization’s business, we must first focus our energy on making compliance determinations. Business is also conducted, but it must take a back seat in some situations to rendering accreditation recommendations based on the national Standards.

The most obvious reason our role is important to program directors is because we make decisions that affect their program’s accreditation status. What is often lost is the work we do in assisting programs in becoming compliant when there is a deficiency, service often provided through our staff. Making the decision about a program’s compliance with the national Standards usually involves three of our directors carefully comparing the findings letter a program has received from us with all the documentation the program has submitted in response and matching each piece of that response to the Standard it addresses.

This can be a tedious process, but we are committed to seeing that each program’s response is considered with great care—we realize that assembling a response can be a big job often involving not only the program’s director, but their chain of command as well. The team of three directors then presents their findings to the full board and other directors question the finding until a consensus is reached on the decision we need to make. Once a decision is reached, we also communicate directly with our staff to specify how the decision is communicated to the program and to insure every opportunity is used to help guide the program toward compliance.

Although the process during one of our board meetings can be protracted and involve the review of documentation, policy, and procedure, our staff invariably makes us look great when it comes to working directly with our programs. Calls to the office are answered by a member of staff almost 100 percent of the time (voice messages are rarely necessary).

Each member of our staff is carefully mentored until they can work one-on-one with program directors who call with questions regarding a finding or an upcoming change that needs to be reported or how to use our web-based Annual Report. Dialogue with our programs continues and includes all members of our staff up to and including our executive director until our programs can confidently assemble a complete submission—and then the cycle begins again as we, the board, consider their submission, keeping in mind that accreditation means a credible education.