CAAHEP LogoIn part one of this two-part series, featured in the May 2016 issue of the ARC/STSA E-newsletter, we learned a little bit more about CAAHEP: What the organization is, as well as its history, mission, vision and function. With this understanding of CAAHEP’s goal — to create quality educational programs that prepare students for a successful career in surgical technology and surgical assisting — we can better understand the relationship between CAAHEP and ARC/STSA.

The Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (ARC/STSA) was formed by the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Council on Medical Education in 1972 after educational standards for the surgical technology field were adopted. When specialized accreditation programs began just two years later, standards of compliance were developed by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST). In 1994, ARC/STSA became separately incorporated and one of the member Committees on Accreditation under CAAHEP’s umbrella.

Accreditation is a method of ensuring that agreed-upon standards of performance and quality have been met by educational institutions and professional programs. CAAHEP is the largest programmatic/specialized accreditor in the healthcare field and the accrediting body for the surgical technology and surgical assisting programs. But they don’t do it alone. CAAHEP looks to accreditation review councils with expertise in different program areas to help ensure programs meet the standards that have been set forth.

ARC/STSA administers programs to ensure the elements required for CAAHEP accreditation are met, including:

  • Self-study: The program analyzes how well it meets the Standards and Guidelines set forth by CAAHEP;
  • On-site Evaluation: A team of site visitors travel to institutions for a site evaluation;
  • Committee Review and Recommendation: The Committee on Accreditation for the relevant discipline will review the results of the site evaluation and make a recommendation for accreditation or identify deficiencies; and
  • CAAHEP Board of Directors: The CAAHEP Board of Directors will act upon the recommendations from the Committee on Accreditation.

Although pursuing accreditation is a voluntary process, it is beneficial for institutions in that it defines standards and presents opportunity for a program to evaluate its goals, offerings and accomplishments. It is also beneficial because it encourages a high level of education, which translates to a well-prepared and qualified workforce.

Staying true to its mission to provide for the quality of the surgical technology and surgical assistance programs in its system, ARC/STSA assists program directors throughout the CAAHEP accreditation process. It sponsors Accreditation Fundamentals for Educators (AFE) workshops for newly-appointed directors, hosts Beginning Site Visitor Training (SVT-B) for prospective site evaluators, provides graduate income to see how programs compare to one another, provides updates to and interpretations of CAAHEP’s Standards to make the application process easier, provides scholarships to assist with ST/SA education and connects program directors to one another to encourage sharing and networking.