Overcoming the Fear of the Unknown

By Stefanie Vaughn, CST, Program Director of Surgical Technology, Angelina College

This time last year, as a practicing CST, I was heading up an orthopedics excellence program at the hospital where I was working. I never would have imagined that a year later I would find myself as the program director of surgical technology at Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas. I had served on the Angelina College Advisory Board for several years and thought I had a good idea of what the program director position entailed. Boy, was I wrong. It is so much more involved than what I could have ever imagined. Regardless of the daunting task of learning a completely new career, I was up for the challenge.

For the last 15 years of my career as a surgical technologist, I have taken comfort in going to work and knowing what I was doing — most of time. All of us at some point in our career have been placed on a surgical procedure that we are not familiar with. However, we use our experience and critical thinking skills, and if we are good enough, we can make it seem as if we have scrubbed that procedure several times before. In October 2016, I walked into the position of program director of surgical technology and had no idea what I was doing for the first time in a very long time. My emotions were all over the place: excited, nervous, anxious, and happy all at the same time. I could not fake knowing how to do this job; I felt vulnerable and overwhelmed.

In my first week, I had to file a Change of Program Director form with ARC/STSA. To my surprise, I successfully completed and filed the form without complications. A part of me feared ARC/STSA, and that fear increased upon learning that I had to attend a mandatory workshop in Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 17, 2017. I arrived at the workshop not knowing what to expect. The first person I met was Ron Kruzel, executive director of ARC/STSA. Most of my fear was relieved when I met him. He was helpful, professional, warm and welcoming. As I met the other officers, my fears dissolved along with my anxiety. Everyone was so very understanding and friendly.

Once the workshop began, I realized I was not alone as a first-time program director. I met so many people there with similar stories as mine. All the speakers were very informative and easy to understand. ARC/STSA helped me understand the annual reports, the Standards Interpretive Guide, and their use of interactive learning was exceptional. My experience was phenomenal. I networked with other program directors from all over the United States. I no longer have fear. I now strive to learn as much as I can and hopefully one day I will be able to relieve someone else’s fear as they find themselves in the unknown.

Stefanie Vaughn graduated from Tyler Junior College with an AAS in surgical technology in 2002 and is currently pursuing a BAS at Wayland Baptist University. She worked as a CST at various hospitals in Texas, specializing in spine, orthopedics, ENT and urology and was an orthopedic coordinator. In October 2016, she started as the program director of surgical technology at Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas. She also currently serves as secretary for AST-Texas State Assembly and has served the past year on the board of directors. 


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