Leadership can make or break an ASC. Filling the administrator's position is an essential, if challenging, task. Much of the day-to-day of a specific center's operations can be learned on the job, but only with the right foundation. What innate abilities does an ASC administrator need to succeed?
1. Strong communication. The bulk of an administrator's responsibilities hinge on interacting with the other people at the center. "From the alpha-type orthopedic surgeon to the 19 year old new hire, the ability to communicate in a manner that is effective to each person, one that motivates them to produce, is something I feel you are either born with or not," says Jennifer Butterfield, MBA, RN, CNOR, CASC, administrator of Lakes Surgery Center in West Bloomfield, Mich. The talent for communication is fluid; it can and needs to continually be honed. But, administrators who will excel have a natural strength in this area.
2. Prioritization. The sheer amount and variance of work ASC administrators are faced with on a daily basis can be intimidating. "New administrators struggle with the amount of items that need their attention and it's easy to lose focus and become overwhelmed," says Ms. Butterfield. "Experienced administrators are able to tell what's important now and what can be delegated or handled later." Discovering how to correctly prioritize can be a gradual process, but an individual who is unable to sift through tasks and trust others through delegation will toil in the administrator role.
3. Organization. Prioritization allows ASC administrators to conceptualize their day; organization allows them execute their tasks and ensure each priority is met. "Administrators that cannot stay focused will poorly handle the day-to-day demands," says Ms. Butterfield. Organizational skills are vital for administrators to see and strive for the big picture: the ASC's overall success and sustainability as a business.
4. Willingness to learn. Communication, prioritization and organization are abilities that can be fostered in any environment and expertly applied in the ASC setting, but these skills alone do not an administrator make. A willingness and eagerness to acquire new skills and knowledge specific to the surgery center business is the final piece of administrator puzzle.
A surgery presents clinical and business office demands, while many administrators have a background in just one area. Be prepared to use foundational skills to learn as much as possible. "If you are not clinical, spend a lot of time in the clinical departments. Shadow some nurses and techs for a few days and get a feel for what it is they do. Watch some of the surgical cases your facility and surgeons are performing," says Ms. Butterfield. "If you are clinical, then spend more time in the business office, learn what it is that your insurance verification specialist does and sit with the person that does collections."