Updated Statement on COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

The ARC/STSA has been closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) on our surgical technology and surgical assisting programs.  We understand the unprecedented challenges that our programs and institutions are facing and appreciate the measures that each is taking to keep students, faculty, staff and their communities safe.   

As institutions are extending breaks, suspending on-ground classes, and moving to alternative delivery methods, the ARC/STSA recognizes that programs may need to initiate different approaches and strategies that may be influenced by individual institutional policies and procedures, local, state and federal regulations.

The ARC/STSA is providing the following guidance in order for programs to remain compliant with the surgical technology and surgical assisting core curricula and CAAHEP Standards during this challenging time.  We recognize that this is a rapidly evolving situation, so additional guidance will be provided as it becomes necessary.

Didactic Coursework

As previously announced (March 12, 2020), institutions initiating alternative education delivery methods, such as asynchronous online learning or synchronous web conferencing, during this public health crisis may do so without completing the ARC/STSA Distance Education Application.  Program directors are requested to send a notification of the change to info@arcstsa.org, and must include administration (dean and/or president) on the correspondence.

The notification should include the change that the institution has decided to make with the starting date and anticipated duration. Such decisions should take into account guidance from the school administration and institutional accreditors, and give due regard to student enrollment policies. ARC/STSA expects programs to comply with public health agencies’ directives and other local, state and federal requirements. [Resource: U.S. Department of Education’s Guidance for interruptions of study related to Coronavirus (COVID‐19)]

Please note that this is a temporary exemption; if a program wishes to continue distance education delivery after the COVID‐19 crisis, it will need to follow the ARC/STSA’s stated application procedures.

Laboratory Coursework

The critical role of surgical technologists and surgical assistants in the operating room is foundational to the CAAHEP Standards and the basis of laboratory requirements within the curricula. The skills-focused nature of laboratory requirements presents challenges to converting programs primarily to online learning. Please keep the following Standards in mind during this adjustment:

  • Standard III.A. – If appropriate resources are available, the ARC/STSA supports students practicing their lab skills at home as preparation for clinical; however, final skill competencies are to be graded in the live lab setting with the instructor or program director in person. We understand that this may cause a delay in course completion until sufficient lab resources are available. [Resource: U.S. Department of Education’s Guidance for interruptions of study related to Coronavirus (COVID‐19)]

 

  • Standard III.C. – There must also be subsequent evidence that lab curriculum meets or exceeds the content and competencies specified in the Core Curriculum.

 

  • Standard IV.A.1. – Evaluation of the students must be conducted on a recurrent basis and with sufficient frequency to provide both the students and the program faculty with valid and timely indications of the students’ progress toward and achievement of the competencies and learning domains stated in the curriculum.

 

  • Standard IV.A.2. – Records of student evaluations must be maintained in sufficient detail to document learning progress and achievements. Student files must include documentation of student status and assessment processes as the program employs alternative delivery methods.

 

  • Standard V.A. – It is the sponsoring institution’s responsibility to the student to ensure the student receives the content and hours stated in the enrollment agreement.

Clinical Coursework/Cases

It is important to note that minimum requirements of 120 clinical cases as stated in the Surgical Technology Core Curriculum (6e) and 140 clinical cases as stated in the Surgical Assisting Core Curriculum (3e) will not be reduced and simulation cannot be substituted to meet the Standard requirements.

We understand the considerable pressure our programs are experiencing regarding releasing students from meeting these minimum standards of practice; however, these requirements are in place to ensure that students are well prepared to meet the critical role of the surgical technology and surgical assisting professions, the unique challenges of the operating room, and the best interests of the patient. 

If you have students who meet the CCST or CCSA case requirements but have not met credit hour requirements for your individual program, please seek guidance from your school administration and institutional accreditors with regard to stated enrollment policies. The ARC/STSA does not have a stated credit hour requirement that must be met during the clinical component of the program; however, under Standard V.A, it is the sponsor’s responsibility to ensure that the student receives the content and hours stated in the enrollment agreement.

Interruption of Studies

If an institution temporarily suspends all classes, students are suspended from all clinical sites, and/or students have reached a point in their program that they cannot advance or graduate until on-ground experiences resume, please refer to the institution’s policies for extended terms, delayed graduations, leaves of absence, or incompletes.  Such decisions should take into account guidance from the school administration and institutional accreditors, and give due regard to student enrollment policies. The ARC/STSA expects programs to comply with public health agencies’ directives, and other local, state and federal requirements. [Resource: Department of Education’s Guidance for interruptions of study related to Coronavirus (COVID‐19) and updated FAQ section]

Should such an interruption in learning take place, program directors should notify the ARC/STSA at info@arcstsa.org. The notification should include the change that the institution has decided to make with the anticipated starting date and duration. The administration (dean and/or president) must be included on the correspondence.

Regulatory Authorities

The ARC/STSA recognizes that programs may need to initiate different approaches and strategies to comply with their institutional policies; programmatic and institutional accreditation standards; and, local, state and federal regulations.  As such, if there is a circumstance in which CAAHEP Standards are in direct conflict with governmental emergency directives, please notify ARC/STSA at info@arcstsa.org and we will work with the program on any specific challenges.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve day by day; and, while the situation is unpredictable, our commitment is steadfast to do the right thing by our patients, program educators, students and volunteers.

As a world, as a nation, and as educators, we are stronger together.  To that end, we pledge to continue to work with each of our programs to ensure that students receive an education that is consistent with the surgical technology and surgical assisting core curricula and CAAHEP Standards.  We will also continue to monitor the situation around the nation and provide you with updates as they become available.

Thank you for your tireless work, late nights and problem solving throughout this pandemic.  Even in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis, our educators continue to impress and inspire us. Your dedication to your students and commitment to the surgical technology and surgical assisting professions, public health and patients are exemplary.  

Stay well, be strong and Aeger Primo!

 

See the ARC/STSA COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Announcements page for suggested resources related to the COVID-19 crisis.


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