By Bonnie McCoy

Have you ever considered becoming a site visitor? I know, you’re really busy; it’s hard to take the time to leave your own program to visit someone else’s. Why on earth would you want to add to your workload? Let’s talk about it!

Personally, I became a site visitor in 1998 because I thought that I could help to make a difference in the quality of education in surgical technology programs through the accreditation process. More about that later.

Why is program accreditation important? ARC/STSA oversees the accreditation process for surgical technology and surgical assisting programs. Accreditation is a method for recognizing the level of performance, integrity, and quality in professional programs. It validates the educational process and helps to ensure that graduates entering the workforce are knowledgeable and competent. What could be more important than having qualified healthcare professionals in the field?

ARC/STSA ensures compliance of its accredited programs through annual reports and periodic on-site visits. This is where the site visitor team comes in. Depending on the type of site visit, two or more team members will perform the site visit. The site visitors will assess the program’s compliance with the Standards, whether or not the program is achieving its goals, and how the program is addressing self-identified concerns. The team is there to “verify, clarify, and amplify”. The team does not make any determination regarding the program’s on-going accreditation.

ARC/STSA provides mandatory education for its site visitor volunteers before an individual is sent on their first site visit — yes, this is a volunteer position and you must provide the time; however, ARC/STSA pays all of your travel expenses. ARC/STSA will provide you with the information and tools that you need to be successful in your role. An experienced person will be assigned with you during your initial visits.

Has your program had a site visit in the past few years? How intimidating was it for you and your faculty to go through the process? Did you feel completely prepared, utterly confused, or somewhere in between? I believe that I may have helped to enhance some of the surgical technology programs that I visited over the years by explaining the importance and meaning of the Standards and how critical it is to maintain accurate records and correctly complete the Annual Report.

So I did meet my initial goal, but I have received so much more than I ever anticipated by becoming a site visitor. The best thing was in my ability to enhance my own program. A site visitor knows and understands the Standards very well. Once I became a site visitor, I better understood what I needed to do to be in compliance with all of the Standards. In fact, my program’s last random site visit went so well that my vice president recognized the value in performing site visits and insisted that I continue to do so several times per year.

I saw so many different, creative ways to teach various concepts in the classroom and the lab. I incorporated many of those ideas into my own teaching. Along the way, I met many people who became part of my professional network and to whom I could reach out to whenever I had a problem or concern.

Don’t forget the opportunity to travel! I have been to some places that I wouldn’t have thought to go in my wildest dreams.

Have I convinced you to at least find out more about becoming a site visitor? I hope so. You will receive so much more than you give by being a site visitor. Surgical technology and surgical assisting education needs you; don’t ignore the call.

mccoyBonnie McCoy, MEd, RN, CNOR, is retired from the Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences. She taught surgical technology for 30 years, including 20 of which were spent as a program director. She has been a site visitor for the past 18 years.