Northwoods Surgery Center administrator discusses cultivating teamwork and staff satisfaction

Jacqueline McLaughlin, RN, is the administrator at Northwoods Surgery Center in Woodruff, Wis.

Ms. McLaughlin will serve on the panel “Positive Leadership and What the Next Generation of Executives Needs to Know” at Becker’s ASC Annual Meeting. As part of an ongoing series, Becker’s is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference on Oct. 27-29 in Chicago.

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Question: What is the smartest thing you've done in the last year to set your organization up for success?

Jacqueline McLaughlin: The smartest thing that I have done in the past year to set the organization up for success is focusing on staff satisfaction. I have implemented a “Cheers for Peers” box where each employee can write a “thank you” or something kind about another employee. The employee that receives the most cheers and the employee that writes the most cheers are rewarded. We end every staff meeting with our Cheers for Peers. I also give Thank-you Cards to a staff member that went above and beyond, had a tough day and powered through or any other sort of recognition that they may need. The last thing I did was create a Sharepoint page for all staff to access. This has links to any and all programs they access regularly, links to the staff schedule, staff meetings, drills, emergency plan, webinar links, etcetera. I also list important events, anniversaries, birthdays and all of the cheers from the last meeting.

Q: What are you most excited about right now and what makes you nervous?

JM: I am most excited about the increased volume and growth that my center is going through. It is exciting to see where we have come from the past five years that I have been with the center, and where we are going in the future. 

With the increased volume comes the need for increasing staffing and adding physicians. I am most nervous about covering staffing needs in the future or holding back growth due to lack of healthcare professionals that are available.

Q: How are you thinking about growth over the next 12 months?

JM: I am looking to grow the current specialties that I have and would love to add a few more physicians to our group. As I work towards adding additional physicians, I am also working towards adding block time for my current physicians. With the healthcare worker shortage, I must be creative and flexible with staffing. I am currently in the process of cross training all staff according to their scope of practice. I am trained in all aspects of the surgical center to be able to cover any staffing shortages that may come up.

Q: What will healthcare executives and leaders need to be effective leaders for the next five years?

JM: Healthcare leaders must be flexible and creative with the shortage of healthcare workers, supply chain and increasing costs all around. I feel it is imperative that executives and leaders become more involved in the daily workings of each department in order to understand the needs and abilities of those departments and the personnel in those departments. Leaders are going to have to manage increasing costs of staffing and supply chain while working in thinner margins. Having open communication with all players in the surgical center and observing the execution of the processes of the center creates a team effort in making things run more efficiently. I think leaders are going to have to be more involved and present in the daily workings of each department than they ever were before.

Q: What is your strategy for recruiting and retaining great teams? 

JM: Recruiting is difficult as we are located in a rural area and there is a small pool of healthcare workers and physicians. Many of the healthcare systems around us have offered large sign-on bonuses that require a commitment of three to five years from the healthcare workers diluting our pool even further.  We offer full-time, part-time, PRN, temporary and seasonal positions. We advertise that we are physician owned, we do not work on nights, holidays, or weekends, our nurses and staff have a high level of autonomy and we are flexible. I try to emphasize that we work as a team, from physician to receptionist. We have physicians that will help turn over rooms if we are running a bit short or if someone needs a quick bite to eat. I describe that myself, the administrator, staffs anywhere from a couple times per month to a couple times per week. Everyone goes the extra mile to help each other out. 

In retaining a great team, I hold monthly meetings where we discuss each department’s requests, needs, successes and things that need to be improved. I personally offer to help each department every day. I make sure to turn over beds and rooms. Answer phones if the receptionists are busy. Put instruments away after they have been sterilized, and make pre-op and post-op phone calls. When my team requests something that needs to be approved on board level, I go to bat for them. I get their input as much as possible, so they are invested and feel important to the organization. We celebrate success and work through difficulties together.  It is important to me that my team feels valued and understood. I want them to be happy to come to work every day and take pride in their work.

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