By Eboni Saurage, EdD, CST

The portion of this article focusing on Dr. Juergens’ presentation was originally published in April 2020.

At a Louisiana State Assembly Educational Workshop in 2020, Dr. Elise Juergens, a perioperative circulating nurse turned scholar, brought to light that we are all guilty of overlooking our own self-care. Lack of self-care quickly leads to burnout, and given the tumultuous environment currently being experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic, her message could not have been received at a more valuable time.

Dr. Juergens discussed stereotypes imposed upon health care professionals and how such assumptions and cultural norms can perpetuate bad habits among professionals, leading to burnout. She also recommended self-care behaviors that can be implemented in any discipline to help prevent this burnout.

A stereotype that may sound familiar to surgical technologists, surgical assistants and educators is that of the caretaker. Many of us wear more than one hat, which is a perfect example of how caregivers hold themselves to a higher standard. We often see our position as a calling to service and are willing to take on extra work to ensure it gets done. How many times has a surgical technologist or surgical assistant worked overtime, skipped a break or shortened lunch to finish a surgical case or project? How many times has an educator taken work home to ensure students would have an exam ready or administration would have a report that was requested? These are the some of the cultural norms of being in health care education.

Recognizing the cultural norms that surround us and can be detrimental to our own well-being is an important step to preventing burnout. In health care and education, self-care is often seen as a luxury, but Dr. Juergens stressed that continued self-sacrifice for our work will only lead to burnout, turnover and the continual perpetuation of toxic cultural norms. Once the norms have been recognized, we have the power to ignore the norm and the power to take care of ourselves.

In what Dr. Juergens refers to as the “self-care evolution,” she encourages us to create a generation of health professionals who periodically check in with themselves and practice collaborative caretaking by taking care of their teams. She also gives permission to establish boundaries between our calling and our career, and implement expectation management.

As a collaborative team of surgical technology and surgical assisting educators, you have permission to set boundaries. You have permission to step away from your students and reports due to recharge. You have permission to let our next generation of surgical technologists understand that caring for themselves is vital to their future.

Eboni Saurage, EdD, CST, is a surgical technology educator with more than 15 years of experience as a certified surgical technologist working as a program director at Baton Rouge Community College. She currently serves on the ARC/STSA Board of Directors as a director.

Unwind With the ARC/STSA Staff

It’s that time of year where unplugging and relaxing feels more important than ever! Get to know your ARC/STSA staff and how they unwind.

Christy Baily-Byers, Director of Education Services, ARC/STSA & EdAccred

Like many of my ARC/STSA family, my doggos are one of my biggest stress busters. Dalmatians have very silly personalities and act like they are tiny lap dogs. When I am unwinding after work, you can bet I have several Dals sitting with me on the couch, or I am watching them race around the room in circles!

I also enjoy spending time with my kids, kayaking on a lake just a few minutes from our house; it is incredibly beautiful and peaceful taking in the scenery and wildlife, especially near sunset. And every now and then, my daughter and I drive out into the country to ride (and hug) horses — one of my favorite ways to recharge. I call it my equine therapy!

Chris Bednarski, Administrative Assistant, ARC/STSA

Work from home life is definitely a lot more stressful than being in office, but Mack helps keep me balanced and relaxed when I get too worked up. Whether he is sleeping in a funny position, playing with one of his toys, or really just existing, he really helps me unwind!

Editors note: Our teammate, Chris, left the ARC/STSA to move back home to Illinois last week. We’re going miss him terribly, as I know so many of our educators will as well! Keep those Mack pics, comin’, Chris!

Ron Kruzel, Executive Director ARC/STSA

I’m a huge music person! My musical mood swings pretty wildly, but I think classic rock is my favorite genre. Listening to music is one of my favorite things to do. If I’m not doing that, I hang with the chickens we take care of at Pioneer Elementary School, as part of a program that engages with special needs students. Or I hang with my dogs. Most of all, I hang with my grandson Ryder! He’s the BOMB! Did you know there are over 700 different species of dinosaurs?!

Erin Monroy, Education Coordinator, ARC/STSA and EdAccred

At the end of a long day or week, I can always count on my three Maltipoos — Fito, Trixie and Pepe — to take away all my stress. Nothing better than cuddling up with a pup and a nice fuzzy blanket, putting on a show — either a mindless comedy or a true crime documentary, no in between — and grabbing some yummy snacks to top it off. Candy is a must-have!

Tamara K. Simmons, Director of Accreditation Services, ARC/STSA

My favorite way to relax and unwind involves throwing myself into a new city, state, cuisine or country. I find the best way to truly reset my soul is putting my feet in an ocean, traveling, sipping and sampling cuisines and strolling my way through a new location, soaking up all the region has to offer.

In the past 18 months I have not been able to continue my travels, but have found that traveling through cooking has proven to be relaxing and enjoyable. There is something about chopping vegetables that is soothing and methodical; getting lost in a recipe and making it your own is truly satisfying. The flavors and combinations that you can create become the adventure and the deep exhale you need at the end of a long day.

During the summer months I have taken up paddle boarding, which has been challenging, beautiful and breathtaking. Colorado has some amazing mountain views — I am so lucky to live here.

Kayla Tufano, Accreditation Coordinator, ARC/STSA

During the week, between work and school, I am going, going, going. To relax and unwind, I spend my Friday evenings at my parents’ house, playing with my niece and nephews, hanging out with my brother-in-law and sister, and spending some quality time with my parents. It is a running joke that if I visit my family early on Saturday, we will ask my sister to “babysit” me, while my husband works. And as all babysitters should be paid, we are sure to pay my sister in Dutch Bros coffee.

Spending time with my family gets me out of my house and away from my computer, which is something I desperately need after 13-hour days during the week. If it weren’t for my family being so close, I would probably spend my weekends getting ahead of school, never leaving my computer.

Crystal Warner, Education Manager, ARC/STSA and EdAccred

Nature has always helped me unwind, relax and reset. Just a few minutes sitting on the porch with our chickens, or a nice walk in the woods can reduce stress or the feeling of burnout.

When I am not enjoying the outdoors, I have two dogs and a cat inside that are also part of my support system. Opal is our German Shepherd who identifies as a Pomeranian (she was raised by my previous pom) and Holly is my little Frenchton puppy who identifies as a German shepherd. I believe our cat, Murphy, identifies as a dog because he is not a typical cat. They are a constant source of entertainment and snuggles. Living a simple life outside of work, no news and limited social media, plays a part in my overall happiness and wellness. And I started doing yoga this year — so wish me luck with that!

Shake out the stress with a top 10 Spotify playlist (below) of some of ARC/STSA Executive Director Ron Kruzel’s favorite music.