6 Golden Rules of Surgery Center Staff Engagement From Administrator Lori Martin

Team GoalSurgery center administrators bear a great deal of responsibility for their center's performance and daily operations. Finding the key to an engaged staff is one of the best actions administrators can take to fulfill that commitment.

"The more invested the staff is the more honesty you get, even when you're not there. An engaged staff does what is best for the patient and the center," says Lori Martin, administrator of Summit Surgery Center in Reno, Nev. From purchasing less expensive supplies to working well with the center's physicians, a staff that is committed to a surgery center will do everything possible to see it thrive. Ms. Martin shares six proven ways to forge effective staff engagement at surgery centers.

1. Search for staff members that are willing to go beyond the expected. Surgery centers are beacons of efficiency, a reputation that could not have been earned without qualified staff members. When adding new staff members, qualification screening is certainly an essential part of the process, but administrators should also search for potential hires that exhibit willingness to commit beyond performing their expected duties. "Ask them if they are interested in extra initiatives. Every member of the team should have something extra to do," says Ms. Martin.

While examining their past work experience, search for any committees they were involved in at past centers. Participation in infection control and patient satisfaction committees shows willingness to share in commitment beyond their own individual duties.  

2. Trust your staff to shoulder responsibility. An important aspect of promoting staff engagement is allowing each member to perform their individual job and trusting that each job performance will contribute to center's success. "Everyone has a part in running things smoothly. They take pride in their work and the administrator does not have to micromanage," says Ms. Martin.

At Summit Surgery Center, each staff member is responsible for a different area that comes up in accreditation surveys. "For each section of AAAHC accreditation, someone owns it," says Ms. Martin. "Any issue that arises is reported to the quality improvement committee each month." Each staff member plays a role in assuring the surgery center is compliant. They are trusted to find and report any issues.

3. Always offer your staff honesty. Administrators always expect honesty, especially from an engaged staff. This expectation works best when viewed as a collective responsibility. Administrators should always remain straightforward with their staff members. "Honesty is the number one thing that will gain your trust from your staff," says Ms. Martin.

4. Don't forget the value of fairness. Ms. Martin has found one of the biggest mistakes administrators can make when it comes to building staff engagement and loyalty is valuing one staff member higher than the rest. Often times, a physician will laud a nurse or scrub tech as fantastic. Administrators may scramble to do anything to get this individual on the center's staff.

"Surgery centers can fall into the trap of overpaying this person. It inevitably leaks out to the staff and leads to dissatisfaction," says Ms. Martin. While hiring new talent can benefit a center and its staff, it can also hurt the existing members if their work is undervalued.

Ms. Martin explains that building a healthy work environment, rather than relying on overcompensation, leads to just as talented of a staff without bringing resentment into the equation. "I believe in keeping things even," she says. Her belief in fairness and a good work environment has even led to a few staff members taking a pay cut just to join the center.

5. Build relationships beyond work. People are better able to invest time and build true engagement with a workplace when they feel that the investment is mutual. "People need to feel like it is both a professional and family environment," she says. Administrators and surgery center leaders should make an effort to foster personal relationships with and among the staff members.

At Summit Surgery Center, the staff goes out together outside of work. They go to local baseball games, hold barbeques and even throw baby showers. "We get involved in peoples lives and celebrate their accomplishments," says Ms. Martin.

6. Never underestimate the value of the little things. During the past few years, surgery centers and just about everywhere else have been feeling the pinch of the economic slump. At Summit Surgery Center, there was little option for staff raises during a year and a half period. The staff did small things together, like hold a potluck, to bolster moral.

When a staff member is ill, the entire group pitches in to provide support, with gestures like a get well card or a celebration of a milestone in treatment. From birthday celebrations to condolences for a lost pet, each small gesture adds to a staff's willingness to commit. "The little things pay off in the long run and your staff will follow you anywhere," says Ms. Martin.

More Articles on ASC Staff:
6 Steps to Hire a Staff That Makes Your Surgery Center Shine
How ASCs Can Thrive Through Teamwork: Q&A With Administrator Joseph DeMarco
6 Steps to Structuring ASC Administrator & Staff Bonus Programs

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