From Ron Kruzel, MA, CAE, CST, ARC/STSA Executive Director

Welcome to the ARC/STSA July/August eNewsletter. We are eight months into 2020, where addressing extraordinary challenges and making difficult decisions happen almost daily. None of us signed on for this, yet here we are. Along with the challenges, there are shining examples of caring and a profound sense of community among our educators. We are clearly better together. With so much happening, my update will provide a brief summation on a number of pertinent topics related to activities at the ARC/STSA.

The pandemic continues to affect our accredited programs and sponsoring institutions across the country. Thank you to all who have reached out to share your challenges, concerns, program modifications and successes. The ARC/STSA has been working with our partners at CAAHEP, fellow CAAHEP Committees on Accreditation (CoAs), the Association of Specialized Professional Accreditors (ASPA) and other leading organizations in the accreditation industry to be as proactive as possible in our efforts to assist our community. We continue to utilize every available resource, keeping abreast of guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). These efforts have led to a number of guidance documents (posted on our COVID-19 Announcements page) as well as a recently released FAQ document and program tracking form for COVID-19 academic modifications. As the pandemic unfortunately continues, watch for surveys and outreach from the ARC/STSA so we can continue to keep up with your ongoing and specific challenges.

The ARC/STSA has received approval of the proposed surgical technology Associate Degree language from both sponsoring organizations, the American College of Surgeons and the Association of Surgical Technologists. Our next step in the approval process will be to vet the language to the CAAHEP Standards Committee for comment, followed by the required public comment period and open hearing. Once that is accomplished, the language will go to the CAAHEP board of directors for final approval. We had anticipated the CAAHEP Board of Directors’ review and vote this coming fall, but the pandemic continues to affect ARC/STSA timelines as well. Anticipated implementation of the Associate Degree remains August 1, 2021, for cohorts starting on or after that date.

ARC/STSA has received a number of inquiries related to granting of a two-year extension for Associate Degree implementation. Until the final Associate Degree language has been approved and adopted by CAAHEP’s Board of Directors, there is no mechanism to grant a program a two-year extension for implementation of the Associate Degree. Once the Standards language receives final CAAHEP approval, however, the ARC/STSA will notify our programs of the process for requesting an extension.

Thank you to all of the educators who participated in the webinar presented by ARC/STSA, EdAccred and AST, held July 10, 2020, “Maintaining Safety and Quality when Re-opening Labs.” Nearly 400 of you registered for this event and more than 300 attended! For those who were unable to attend, you can access the recording and additional resources on the new ARC/STSA website. Yes, the old website has been redesigned and includes a section for upcoming events, so be on the lookout for more webinars and other offerings in the coming months!

For those of you unfamiliar with Education & Accreditation Resource, LLC (EdAccred), it is the ARC/STSA’s new education initiative providing resources and consultative services for our program community. We are excited about this, too!

Finally, due to the ongoing nature of the COVID-19 health crisis and the seemingly daily variations in curriculum delivery our educators are facing, the ARC/STSA has postponed the 2020 Annual Report submission period until 2021. ARC/STSA staff continues to work on a new, streamlined reporting process and is committed to making 2021 as seamless as possible for our educators.

From all of us here at the ARC/STSA — Tamara, Christy, Crystal, Erin, Kayla, Chris and myself — we wish you the best as you navigate these difficult times. Your sense of community is inspirational, and we stand with you in efforts to maintain the educational integrity of your programs. Your students, graduates and community partners so appreciate that commitment, and so does the ARC/STSA.

As always, reach out anytime if I can assist with your questions or listen to your concerns: