ASCs expect staffing issues for 'foreseeable future,' but other challenges need attention

Independent ASCs are in an intensified struggle to attract and retain talent. Surgery centers have always competed against hospitals and health systems in their market, but now they are competing with hospitals' high-dollar signing bonuses and other recruitment tactics as the labor market remains turbulent.

Many ASC employees are drawn to surgery centers because of the more reliable level of predictability in their daily schedules compared to the hospital environment. Still, burnout is a huge hurdle. Today's employees want more flexible schedules, but widespread staffing shortages make this tough for many ASCs to make a reality.  

Staffing remains the biggest challenge for ASCs, but competition with hospital-owned surgery centers, insurer battles and the cost of growth are on many other centers' radars.

Three ASC administrators told Becker's the biggest challenges they anticipate over the next year.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Jessica Rodriguez. Administrator, OAM Surgery Center at MidTowne (Grand Rapids, Mich.): Most of my time is spent on payer negotiations and payer issues. I spend more time negotiating (fighting) with payers than I ever expected in this role. Staffing has been a big challenge for most centers over the last 12 months and likely for the foreseeable future. The payment landscape for ASC is another big challenge that we face. Costs are going up exponentially, but we are not seeing a corresponding increase in reimbursement.

Sheila Thompson, RN. Administrator, Twin Cities Pain Clinic and Surgery Center (Edina, Minn.): The biggest issue I am spending most of my time on is staffing. We are short RNs and nursing assistants. It is extremely hard to run a busy ASC being short on nurses. Our current team works so hard, but they cannot maintain this pace over the long term. I hope this improves in the next six to 12 months. We also have an increase of COVID-positive staff with symptoms, which had been better, and I hope that this too resolves over the next six to 12 months.

Lori Tamburo Martini. Administrator, Specialty Orthopedic Group Surgery Center (Tupelo, Miss.): Our top challenges are time, growth, space and staffing. Time and growth are good problems to have, but maximizing efficiency while growing can be challenging. Our current volume is increasing, and we need to make room for surgeons who will be onboarding. Space is a factor for most facilities, so we have had to get creative. We purchased a building behind our ASC that will eventually provide more storage and housing dedicated to urgent care and business operations. We also have plans for a second ASC. Staffing issues have been slowly coming to a close, and we expect to be fully staffed in the next month.

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