By Ron Kruzel, MA, CAE, CST, FAST, ARC/STSA Executive Director
Greetings to all, and I hope your summer is off to an amazing start! For two long years, our education community has learned to live in the new reality of a world with COVID, responding with amazing agility and resilience and adapting in a moment’s notice to the ever-changing landscape of a public health emergency.
While most states are currently experiencing relatively low rates of virus transmission and limited rates of hospitalizations and deaths, it’s not yet safe to say whether the pandemic phase appears to be winding down, and its impacts remain as new challenges confront our community. Two years of low enrollments, delayed graduations, higher-than-normal student attrition, and professional burnout have led to severe shortages of surgical technologists around the country. It goes without saying what that means. Over the past months, we have all seen the industry response to this shortage: sign-on bonuses, salary adjustments, and shocking traveler contracts. Our profession is becoming transient, which bodes poorly for our surgical patients.
Even more concerning is a disturbing trend emerging to circumvent formal education of surgical technologists. You may be seeing symptoms of this in your own community. There are increasing numbers of “alternative pathways” to educate surgical technologists, some shockingly abbreviated. A 120-hour training course is simply not adequate to educate a surgical technologist. Alternative pathways in education are not the answer to alleviate workforce shortages—particularly in a critical patient care area like the operating room.
ARC/STSA is working to develop a comprehensive program to support our accredited education programs, students and graduates in surgical technology. Elements of the program will emphasize components of accredited education, methods of increasing partnership opportunities between our programs and their clinical partners, and data demonstrating the effectiveness of our programs in preparing fully competent entry-level surgical technologists. We recognize the critical role ARC/STSA plays in supporting you and your program.
I am proud to add we (ARC/STSA) are working in collaboration with AST and NBSTSA on identifying the scope of this concern and in developing a sustained program to support education, certification, and the surgical technologist in practice.
“The mission of the ARC/STSA is to provide accreditation services to our communities of interest that validate excellence of educational programs in order to advance the professions and ensure quality patient care.”
It is about quality patient care. It is about support. Our strengths as a profession are our educators and your programs.
Please reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any concerns you have in your immediate community. ARC/STSA has and will continue to reach out to your community if you feel it may assist you in your efforts. Thank you for your ongoing support of all of us here at the ARC/STSA. Together we can make a difference!