There are a number of cogs in the wheel that keep an ambulatory surgery center on the path to operational and financial success. One of the most essential, if at times, undervalued cogs is the nurse leader.
Exceptional nurse leaders are vital to the success of ASCs because they help drive the level of clinical quality provided, set the tone for physician relationships and establish the culture for both safety and patient experience, according to Michelle George RN, MSN, CASC, vice president of clinical services at Surgical Care Affiliates. The surgery centers with the most effective and efficient leaders are also the ones with the most successful accreditation and certification survey outcomes.
Finding your nurse leader
"The opportunity to hire a new nurse leader is an exciting and important time for everyone," says Ms. George. There are two key strategies that administrators can follow when interviewing candidates for the nurse leader position:
1. Take your time and be specific. Take the time and energy to identify the best match for your ASC's current leadership needs, says Ms. George. ASC administrators can develop a list of the surgery center's current challenges before the recruitment process and seek out candidates with the skill set needed to address these specific challenges.
"For example, if the center is coming up on a first-time accreditation or licensing survey, it is strongly encouraged to hire a nurse leader that knows the survey standards and has experience leading a team in survey readiness," she says.
It is important for ASC administrators to hire a nurse leader who is a good fit for the center in terms of values and cultural fit. According to Ms. George, SCA uses the A Method for Hiring, which aims to identify “A Players”, and the company will hold a position until a qualified candidate can be recruited.
2. Include behavior- and situation-based questions. Candidates tend to reveal the most about their leadership abilities when interviewers use behavior-based questions, according to Ms. George. Also, question candidates about situations that did not go well in their past leadership roles and assess their responses.
"Keen insight into past mistakes and having a strategy to approach a similar challenge differently is a good indication that a nurse leader has grown and will not repeat past mistakes," she says. "If a candidate shows the tendency to blame others for the failure or doesn't seem to know what went wrong, then they are apt to repeat these same mistakes at your center."
Supporting nurse leadership
Finding a great ASC nurse leader is step one. Step two involves encouraging their professional growth to ensure that they feel fulfilled and challenged. Nurse leaders who are allowed to grow in their roles are the ones most likely to stay with your center.
"Young leaders grow best in an environment where there is a commitment to mentoring, coaching and allowing them to take on new responsibilities without fear of criticism or failure," says Ms. George.
According to Ms. George, placing nurse leaders in committees, change management projects and formal leadership training courses creates opportunities for steady, continuous growth. SCA, for example, established the SCA Leadership Excellence program for developing leaders. "Several hundred SCA clinical leaders have completed this leadership training and can use this training to be more effective in their roles," she says. "Many have successfully advanced to administrator or other leadership positions in our company."
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