6 key concepts for smart staffing at ASCs

Charlene Mooney of Halley Consulting Group outlines the key concepts for smartly staffing an ambulatory surgery center.

1. Take your time to hire the right staff and properly onboard them. “One area where people fall short is proper onboarding,” says Ms. Mooney. “When you are hiring because there’s a desperate need for help, you’re more likely to take someone on the spot instead of taking your time and making sure you get the best candidate for the position.”

In an unorganized onboarding process, new staff members struggle to ask the right person their questions and may get multiple responses depending on who answers them. Formalize the process so new staff members are set up for success. “Start training new hires on day one so they’re comfortable with the position on their own. If you properly onboard someone, you won’t have issues down the road.”

2. Retaining the best staff members. The most successful administrators have a presence in the office, rounding and talking to staff about their ideas and opinions for improvement. “When staff members feel like they have a say and are listened to, there is more of a buy in,” Mooney said. She also recommends a team huddle for five minutes at the beginning of the day or at lunch time to regroup, make announcements and discuss progress on goals.

“Part of keeping good staff members is making goals,” said Mooney. “If there are people who are unable to meet the goals set for them, address it and hold them accountable. If they are still unable to meet their goals, then you have to be prepared to terminate. The problem employees can spread and impact the financial end of the business. It’s expensive to hire and train a new person, and when there is a lot of turnover the remaining staff members become frustrated because they are constantly spending time training new people.”

3. Dealing with disciplinary issues. “Communicating expectations and holding staff members accountable to those expectations is important,” says Ms. Mooney. When staff members are not made aware of the policies and consequences for breaking the rules, it becomes difficult to hold them responsible for their actions.

“Keep the communication open and keep them involved in planning and they’ll buy in and be committed and loyal,” Ms. Mooney said. “Take care of your people and everything else will work out.”

4. Implementing the right technology and payroll systems to track staff hours and pay. One of the biggest disciplinary issues is attendance. “I’m seeing a lot of FMLA requests, which is a real challenge,” Mooney stated. “We want to respect people who have issues and need time off, but sometimes managing that becomes a challenge.”

The payroll system can track employees and make sure the manager is aware of unsettling trends. Ms. Mooney has observed many staff members take time off as they accrue it and don’t save time for when they need to take big chunks of time off.

5. Adjusting to new patient volume each week and flexing staff accordingly. “Hire a core staff that includes an administrative person, RN, surgical tech and care coordinator and then build around them using on-call staff, because they are the people who can adjust to the fluctuating volume,” says Ms. Mooney. “I used to find it difficult to find flexible staff members because most wanted a full-time job with benefits. But now more people want to work on-call rather than a committed job.”

Ms. Mooney finds on-call staff members through:

• Temporary service agencies
• Job boards
• Ads on Monster or Career Builder
• Job listings in the local newspaper
• Word of mouth

If your center is affiliated with a hospital, you could post the job openings on the hospital’s website as well.

6. Make sure staff members are happy. Patients can tell when staff members are frustrated and could transfer to a different physician as a result. “Patients will leave an office because they don’t like the staff. We lost several patients one week because they didn’t like a front desk staff member,” Mooney said. “It used to be people would put up with anything because they had a great doctor. Now they’ll leave a great doctor because they don’t like the way his staff treated them.”

Customer service is one of the most important skills for staff members, but isn’t a natural fit for everyone. “If someone comes in with those skills but doesn’t have previous ASC experience, consider hiring them. You can train that person on the ASC skills, but it’s harder to train someone to have a professional demeanor,” says Ms. Mooney. During interviews, she asks open-ended questions and is impressed when the interviewee wears business professional attire. “I look for someone with confidence and who is sure of him or herself, and thinks he or she could bring something to the office.”

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