4 ASCs with great employee engagement initiatives

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Here, four ambulatory surgery center administrators discuss ways that they keep employees engaged at their surgery centers.

If you would like to recommend another surgery center for this list, contact Anuja Vaidya at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  

Alfonso del Granado, Administrator & Compliance Officer, Ashton Center for Day Surgery (Hoffman Estates, Ill.): With insurance contracts tightening, we made the decision to engage our employees at Ashton Center for Day Surgery. We informed them that there was no chance of layoffs, but asked them to help improve profitability and challenged them to help us reduce labor hours per case. We provided them with as much information on best practices as we could gather, such as a patient acuity tool for post-anesthesia care unit, and then gave them relatively free rein to determine the best and most fair way on their own.
 
The staff took to it like a duck to water. Instead of schedules and assignments coming down from on high, they took complete ownership of the project and managed to decrease overall labor costs by 20 percent in the first quarter of 2014, and again in the second quarter, for a total decrease of 39 percent versus 2013.

Some of the difference from 2013 to 2014 is attributable to increased volume and a change of case type mix, but the 24 percent difference from Q1 to Q2 is all to their credit.
 
Even though they are working harder than ever, the sense of empowerment has had an extremely positive effect. Staff morale went way up, even as costs have plummeted. Meanwhile, patient satisfaction and quality of care remain as high as ever. Time will tell if this pace is sustainable, but we're pretty much bursting with pride over the staff's dedication and commitment, and we strongly encourage all employers to engage their employees as we did.

Judy Harless, MBA, CASC, Administrator, SMI Surgery Center (San Diego): I'm sure I'm not the only administrator to think this, but I have an amazing staff. They are engaged, professional, conscientious, skilled and work cohesively as a team. It is with their efforts and input that SMI Surgery Center's volume increased 15 percent between 2012 and 2013. and 2014 is pacing ahead of last year at this time.

We empower our staff by keeping them informed. My management team and I keep the staff informed on all aspects of our business, from infection control rates to EBITDA.  We review the cost of supplies, employee benefits and other expenses and benefits to which many employees are not privy. Each month our patient satisfaction survey results are posted and I highlight whenever an employee is recognized by a patient.

We also keep them engaged by soliciting ideas from our team regarding processes, cost savings and benefits. At staff meetings, whenever a staff member answers a question or contributes to the meeting, their name is put in a hat for a drawing at the end of the meeting. Some of the prizes include free lunch, cash, gift cards or an afternoon off.

We keep them happy by investing in our employees by having an amazing holiday party, annual day at the ballpark, picnics, bowling, parties and other team-building activities. I have new hires complete a "spoil me" card, providing ideas for recognition they would appreciate, such as movie tickets, books, gift cards, etc. So it's meaningful and personal. The management team and I have also made lunch for the staff.

Our patients frequently mention how apparent it is that the staff members enjoy their jobs and each other. Our surgeons value the personalized attention and the team environment at SMI Surgery Center. Most importantly, our staff members enjoy coming to work and spending time with each other. The staff can make or break a center and ours has enabled us to achieve and surpass our goals.

Elizabeth Convery, Administrator, Teaneck (N.J.) Surgical Center: Great employee engagement is a critical component for the success of any ASC. Happy employees equal happy patients. Today's patients are educated consumers, shopping for quality healthcare, efficiency and an overall pleasant experience while having surgery. Here at Teaneck Surgical Center, to keep our employees engaged and happy, we take pride in honoring and respecting each individual. 

We have created a true team philosophy in which each person pitches in and helps one another get through our busy days. If the director of nursing can mop the floor, anyone can take out the trash. Lunch is provided weekly by our anesthesia team, and we try to eat together at the end of our day. 

We celebrate birthdays monthly, letting each physician and employee know we care. We also engage our staff by providing excellent hands-on education days. Dr. Marsha Thornhill, director of anesthesia, gets the staff up and participating in mock codes, such as malignant hyperthermia and cardiac arrest. She has set up a "block school" to teach staff nurses how to assist with our ultrasound guided post-operative pain blocks. We find they love learning new things and by adding role playing the day is more fun.

We also do a lot of outside activities together such as the "maniac mud run," collecting toys for the Red Cross at Christmas and pot luck lunches. We practice a "no gossip zone" and make sure to add a dose of humor and laughter daily and so far it has worked. Our turnover rate is nearly obsolete, providing great continuity of care. When you get a job at Teaneck Surgical Center, you stay at Teaneck Surgical Center! 

Gabrielle White, RN, CASC, executive director, ambulatory services and network development at Hoag Orthopedic Institute, Orthopedic Surgery Center of Orange County (Newport Beach, Calif.).: I believe our ASC has great employee engagement primarily due to empowering leadership. Our center is a joint venture between our local community hospital and the physicians and both trust us and allow us to do our job without any interference, and we deliver great results with little fuss. When leadership is empowered, the teams are empowered and we get nothing but positive results. I feel very fortunate to have a level of trust with those I report to and with those who report to me. 

Another reason we have great employee engagement is the smaller/closer environment we work in [compared to the inpatient setting] that includes all perioperative departments plus administration and business services. The connection from one department to another is only steps away for communication and collaboration or problem solving. We have quicker reporting, turn around for ideas and support for one another and can make changes in real time to deliver better care and this is what also empowers the teams. Team work is natural due to the closeness of the departments and the limited resources we have, we all depend on each other and often wear multiple hats, which keeps the teams engaged, always learning and have purpose and satisfaction in their work. We seek their input for new ideas or process change and we communicate any changes or updates effectively.

ASCs have a small business mentality, are customer service-driven toward the patients, families and our physicians and this extends to the employees as well. I have experienced that smaller spaces and smaller groups of people with the same mission means more collaboration and great results.

Our department leads and their teams are responsible for the success of their department and are accountable for their results. I believe this empowers the leads and their teams to own what they do for better results. We hold frequent meetings and in-services to keep employees updated, educated and allow the opportunity to present ideas or concerns to the group in an informal setting. We share our quality data and patient satisfaction data to demonstrate the outcomes they help deliver. We remind people that all the success we have is a team effort between physicians and employees. We encourage employees to use our risk identification forms with "no blame" to report incidents or near misses and this allows all of us to seek ideas and solutions and continue to improve and keep safety and quality at the forefront of what we do.

The department leads do a great job giving constructive criticism when it is needed to uphold our common values of safety and quality and recognize the great work the teams deliver and we encourage and support them to build a level of trust.  

ASC teams deliver care to people in a much shorter time frame and with fewer resources than most settings and the key to success with our employees are trust, team work, resourcefulness and knowledge. These are only a few elements that help drive the safety and quality agenda that is core to what we do. Customer satisfaction, fiscal responsibility and community are other important factors, but my belief is safety and quality must come above all else and we can only have this when our teams feel they can trust leadership and they have support. 

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3 ASCs With Great Employee Engagement Initiatives

 

Here, three ambulatory surgery center administrators discuss ways that they keep employees engaged at their surgery centers.

 

If you would like to recommend another surgery center for this list, contact Anuja Vaidya at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  

 

Alfonso del Granado, Administrator & Compliance Officer, Ashton Center for Day Surgery (Hoffman Estates, Ill.): With insurance contracts tightening, we made the decision to engage our employees at Ashton Center for Day Surgery. We informed them that there was no chance of layoffs, but asked them to help improve profitability and challenged them to help us reduce labor hours per case. We provided them with as much information on best practices as we could gather, such as a patient acuity tool for post-anesthesia care unit, and then gave them relatively free rein to determine the best and most fair way on their own.

 

The staff took to it like a duck to water. Instead of schedules and assignments coming down from on high, they took complete ownership of the project and managed to decrease overall labor costs by 20 percent in the first quarter of 2014, and again in the second quarter, for a total decrease of 39 percent versus 2013.

 

Some of the difference from 2013 to 2014 is attributable to increased volume and a change of case type mix, but the 24 percent difference from Q1 to Q2 is all to their credit.

 

Even though they are working harder than ever, the sense of empowerment has had an extremely positive effect. Staff morale went way up, even as costs have plummeted. Meanwhile, patient satisfaction and quality of care remain as high as ever. Time will tell if this pace is sustainable, but we're pretty much bursting with pride over the staff's dedication and commitment, and we strongly encourage all employers to engage their employees as we did.

 

Judy Harless, MBA, CASC, Administrator, SMI Surgery Center (San Diego): I'm sure I'm not the only administrator to think this, but I have an amazing staff. They are engaged, professional, conscientious, skilled and work cohesively as a team. It is with their efforts and input that SMI Surgery Center's volume increased 15 percent between 2012 and 2013. and 2014 is pacing ahead of last year at this time.

 

We empower our staff by keeping them informed. My management team and I keep the staff informed on all aspects of our business, from infection control rates to EBITDA.  We review the cost of supplies, employee benefits and other expenses and benefits to which many employees are not privy. Each month our patient satisfaction survey results are posted and I highlight whenever an employee is recognized by a patient.

 

We also keep them engaged by soliciting ideas from our team regarding processes, cost savings and benefits. At staff meetings, whenever a staff member answers a question or contributes to the meeting, their name is put in a hat for a drawing at the end of the meeting. Some of the prizes include free lunch, cash, gift cards or an afternoon off.

 

We keep them happy by investing in our employees by having an amazing holiday party, annual day at the ballpark, picnics, bowling, parties and other team-building activities. I have new hires complete a "spoil me" card, providing ideas for recognition they would appreciate, such as movie tickets, books, gift cards, etc. So it's meaningful and personal. The management team and I have also made lunch for the staff. 

 

Our patients frequently mention how apparent it is that the staff members enjoy their jobs and each other. Our surgeons value the personalized attention and the team environment at SMI Surgery Center. Most importantly, our staff members enjoy coming to work and spending time with each other. The staff can make or break a center and ours has enabled us to achieve and surpass our goals.

 

Elizabeth Convery, Administrator, Teaneck (N.J.) Surgical Center: Great employee engagement is a critical component for the success of any ASC. Happy employees equal happy patients. Today's patients are educated consumers, shopping for quality healthcare, efficiency and an overall pleasant experience while having surgery. Here at Teaneck Surgical Center, to keep our employees engaged and happy, we take pride in honoring and respecting each individual. 

 

We have created a true team philosophy in which each person pitches in and helps one another get through our busy days. If the director of nursing can mop the floor, anyone can take out the trash. Lunch is provided weekly by our anesthesia team, and we try to eat together at the end of our day.  

 

We celebrate birthdays monthly, letting each physician and employee know we care. We also engage our staff by providing excellent hands-on education days. Dr. Marsha Thornhill, director of anesthesia, gets the staff up and participating in mock codes, such as malignant hyperthermia and cardiac arrest. She has set up a "block school" to teach staff nurses how to assist with our ultrasound guided post-operative pain blocks. We find they love learning new things and by adding role playing the day is more fun.

 

We also do a lot of outside activities together such as the "maniac mud run," collecting toys for the Red Cross at Christmas and pot luck lunches. We practice a "no gossip zone" and make sure to add a dose of humor and laughter daily and so far it has worked. Our turnover rate is nearly obsolete, providing great continuity of care. When you get a job at Teaneck Surgical Center, you stay at Teaneck Surgical Center!  

 

 

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