Why a nursing shortage led an Idaho ASC to close its doors

This year, Steven Ozeran, MD, medical director of Lewiston, Idaho-based Ozeran Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, made the decision to close down his practice's affiliated ASC, Syringa Surgery Center, due in part to a nursing shortage that has been impacting practices nationwide. 

While the nursing industry recommends a 1-2 nurse-patient ratio, with shortages exacerbated by the pandemic that is becoming harder for many ASCs. In New Jersey, one-third of nurses have left the bedside since 2020 as facilities struggle with keeping 1-3 nurse-patient ratios. 

Nurse shortages can also lead to patient safety impacts, with a one-patient increase in a nurse's staffing load increasing the risk of death by 7 percent. 

As nursing shortages plague several regions in the U.S., ASCs are forced to become competitive to keep up with larger hospitals and health systems, spending more money on hiring and retaining qualified staff. 

"I am finding that ASCs are competing in the same region against one another for the available staffing pool. This creates the constant awareness of what it takes to not only be competitive with compensation and benefits, but to align the potential employee's goals to your center's culture and how they can best be happier in your facility," Michael Powers, administrator of Children's West Surgery Center in Knoxville, Tenn., recently told Becker's. 

Dr. Ozeran faced similar issues at his ASC, telling Becker's how the ability to attract a qualified nursing staff led to his decision to close Syringa Surgery Center: 

Dr. Steven Ozeran: There are so many things that led to our decision to shut down our one-room outpatient surgery center this year, and the ability to attract qualified nurses was certainly one of them. Several years ago, we had two or three full-time nurses and a bevy of soon-to-be-retired nurses. After the pandemic started, we had problems finding adequate staff. Only two or three candidates responded to job offers posted on sites like Indeed, and our former charge nurse went to work for the insurance company. The only nurses we were able to hire had no operating room experience but learned quickly. They were still limited in the ability to start IVs and provide skilled postoperative care. This is a nationwide problem, and in our case, it was best to shut down rather than continue to deal with the burdens of equipment costs and staffing costs and retention. 

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