This year brought many challenges to ASCs nationwide, including COVID-19 infections, vaccination mandates and staffing shortages.
Here, five ASC leaders shared with Becker's the lessons they have learned in 2021:
Note: Responses have been lightly edited.
Kelly Rhineberger. Administrator of Florida Endoscopy & Surgery Center (Brooksville): Lessons I have learned this past year: patience, patience and more patience. Also, to take one hour at a time due to COVID-19 and all the changes.
Tracy Helmer. Administrator of Seven Hills ASC (Henderson, Nev.): Although ASCs are the epitome of a truly worthwhile alternative for patients during this time of pandemic conditions, patients are more educated than ever before. This is a double-edged sword, as there is a lot of bad information out there. It requires all types of staff to be willing to educate patients and help them find reliable answers in a time where they are harder and harder to find.
Joleen Harrison. Administrator of Grand Valley Surgical Center (Grand Junction, Colo.): The lesson I have learned through this past year is anything can happen. We may not always be prepared. However, being proactive by staying on top of the situation by using state ASC associations or the national ASCA as a resource helped me to forecast for our ASC and where we may be headed. The second most important [lesson] is communication with our team [and] giving factual information at the time it is happening. The last personal lesson as a leader is to accept the fact that at times, I may not know what to do, and it is OK to say it to the team. In any crisis situation, gather as much information as possible, use your resources, include your team and stay the course.
Mark Spina. Director of Operations at Endoscopy Center of Connecticut (Hamden): This year we've learned patience and the importance of infection control. With the pandemic, we've had to create and implement whole new policies and procedures to keep staff and patients safe from COVID-19. Staff now wear N-95 masks and gloves in all patient care areas. Staff in procedure rooms wear full PPE as well as N-95 masks. We have rapid PCR COVID-19 test kits in the center to test staff that come to work with coldlike symptoms. We have enhanced housekeeping cleaning processes to ensure disinfection. Mostly, we've learned to work better as a team to ensure all team members are safe.
Carla Lauenstein. Administrator of Southwest Lincoln Surgery Center (Lincoln, Neb.): Lessons to take away from 2021: Don’t take your staff for granted and also be ready for curveballs along the way.
Staffing shortages and morale have been such a huge factor in this past year. Mask mandates and vaccine mandates have really influenced many healthcare providers' decisions to remain in their field or seek new careers outside of healthcare.
This past year, no one day is like the other. Once we [administrators] think we have it figured out or somewhat under control, a curveball comes along. Staff are still getting COVID — even vaccinated — patients are scheduled and rescheduled for COVID exposure, all making it quite difficult to staff or plan ahead.
Clinical administrators like myself are filling staffing clinical roles more and more than we ever used to due to staffing shortages.
How have we adapted? Plan for the unexpected as much as possible. Engage your employees more often; take time to listen to them more than ever, let them know you support them, and we at Southwest Lincoln Surgery Center have really increased our team bonding/family outings and events to bring more normalcy outside of our work environments.