6 Hiring Practices of Successful Ambulatory Surgery Centers

Here are six hiring practices for successful ASCs.Employees

1. Search for a good fit, not the 'perfect' candidate.
"It's normal and preferable to define all of the key attributes and skills you would like to have in the perfect candidate," said Greg Zoch, managing director and partner with Kaye-Bassman. "Just be prepared that the perfect candidate may not really exist." He said skills and traits should be divided into two separate categories: "must have" and "want to have." The "must have" traits might include your required level of experience — for example, an ASC administrator should probably have at least two years of experience working in a surgery center leadership capacity. The other category, "want to have," might include traits that you would like to see but are not absolutely required. For an ASC administrator position, this might include CASC certification, an RN degree or an advanced degree (MBA, MHA, etc.). Make sure you have clearly separated each item on your list into one of these two categories, and ensure that all the parties agree on what is required versus desired.

"Be prepared to let go of your 'want to have's if all your 'need to have's are met," Mr. Zoch said.  He said while national or state unemployment may be high, the unemployment rate for excellent ASC administrators is very low. "Don't fool yourself by thinking people are going to line-up and wait around if the process drags-on because they're an '8' and you really want a '10'," he said. "In this marketplace, 8 is the new 10."

He said that while a surgery center should never hire a leader who isn't qualified for the position, the hiring committee shouldn't defer making a decision and hold out hope that a perfect candidate will magically present themselves. "The ability to recognize a good candidate and move forward is the sign of a confident, mature and astute hiring authority," he said.

2. Pay revenue staff w
ell. "Generally, ASCs often find it difficult to hire experienced coders and billers because their business office salary budgets are unrealistic," said Caryl Serbin, president of Surgery Consultants of America. "Talented billing personnel tend to migrate to the hospital setting, not necessarily because they pay more, but because they offer better benefits," she said.

It is more difficult for a small employer like an ASC to have a good benefits package, but competitive benefits are essential to attracting higher-level employees. The administrator also needs to make sure revenue staff are happy. That means frequently reaching out to them, meeting with them and making them part of the larger ASC team. "You need a good paycheck but you also need to be happy to go into work," she said.

3. Hire and retain 'A' players.
High turnover rates can result in considerable costs to employers in lost productivity and training. In fact, for every $10,000 in salary of a departed employee, the employer loses about six days of productivity, according to John Merski Jr., executive director of human resources at MedHQ. To avoid high turnover without increasing costs significantly, find appropriate personal to fit positions and conduct ongoing evaluations of employee satisfaction. Also, provide non-monetary benefits to make employees happy.

While an excessive turnover rate is costly, so is an excessively low turnover rate over an extended period of time, according to Mr. Merski. He said a healthy retention rate is roughly 85 to 90 percent of employees.

4. Set clear expectations with staff.
Many ASCs recruit employees directly from the hospital setting, meaning potential employees may be used to a set schedule and pre-determined hours, said Mary Sturm, RN, director of patient care services for Surgical Management Professionals. During the interview process, she recommends you let candidates know that working at an ASC means accepting a flexible schedule. "They need to understand there are rarely guaranteed hour situations, and even full-time people are asked to either not come in or leave early on a slow day," she said.

Honesty and clarity are essential during the interview process to prevent hostility later on, she said. If you let candidates know about your staffing policy, you will probably end up hiring people who understand the financial constraints of an ASC. She said this up-front attitude is even more important in the current economy, when candidates are often looking for full-time employment.

5. Avoid treating candidates like applicants.
According to Mr. Zoch, many hiring managers believe that their job is to screen applicants, and that the screening process will reveal the best person for the job. He said while "screening" candidates seems necessary and logical, "treating qualified candidates like they're applicants is actually a turn-off."

Treat candidates with the respect they deserve through personal communication. If you're hiring an ASC administrator, Mr. Zoch said, you should make the hiring process more personal and respectful. Highly-qualified administrators are likely getting calls from competing surgery centers, hospitals and recruiters, and may be put-off by legacy HR practices such as not getting back to candidates in a timely manner.

"Instead of saying, 'Send us your resume and we'll get back to you,' you should engage the candidate in an initial dialogue about your center, the opening, its challenges and rewards, and where it might take their career," he said. Treat every candidate with respect, and show interest in them personally. Top candidates know when they are being handled.  

6. Employ a mix of full- and part-time staff.
According to Ms. Sturm, the most successful ASC staffing models include a mix of full-time and part-time staff. "You need a cadre of part-time or casual staff that you can call upon to work when volumes are higher and back off when volumes are lower," she said. Part-time staff should be expected to fill these unpredictable shifts, while full-time employees might be more reticent. "If you only have full-time staff, they expect to show up for work every day, and you can't clone them to be an extra staffer on an extremely busy day," she said. "So you want some full-time staff to provide that consistency for patients and surgeons, but part-time staff can be a good asset."

She said full-time and part-time staff should be employed for every position to create a "safety net" in every area of the ASC. The ratio of full-time to part-time staff will depend on your number and type of specialties and the size of your surgery center.

More Articles on Surgery Centers:

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