Efficient & Engaged Staff: Putting Together an ASC Dream Team

Ambulatory surgery center administrator Erika Horstmann answers questions about creating staff efficiency and engagement that builds a positive surgery center environment.  

A surgery center's staff is imperative to the facility's daily operations, overall efficiency and physician satisfaction. The multispecialty Orland Park (Ill.) Surgical Center opened in 2002 and administrator Erika Horstmann has been there since the very beginning. Ms. Horstmann delves into how she selects staff members that fit with her center's culture, encourages staff engagement and facilitates ASC staff creating an environment physicians won't want to live without.

Q: How do you identify potential staff members that will commit to an efficient environment?

Erika Horstmann:  I share the expectations I have for the center and its staff.  I emphasize provision of safe care to our patients, but also let them know we want to keep our physicians happy. I talk about turnover time expectations - it's quick and we don't sit around in between having coffee.

I stress the importance of what our goals are, and how they will contribute to those goals, up front. Sometimes I get a good feel for personality. I can teach people to do things, but I cannot change someone's personality. I want to make sure that a potential staff member's personality fits in with our culture.

I usually speak with candidates on the phone first, then invite them to the center. They  talk with me and our nurse manager then meet the staff they will be working with. My staff speaks up and lets me know if they think someone won't fit in. I listen to them. If the team thinks someone won't fit in, then it won't work.

We are so small that teamwork is of the utmost importance. My staff knows their input really does matter.

Q: What have you done with your staff to eliminate wasted time?

EH: Our average turnover time is about seven minutes, unless it is a bigger, complex case. Our staff works together really well. Once a case is completed, the techs tear down the room and a nurse steps in to help.

To save time, we prepare all linen packs ahead of time. A nurse is in charge of speaking to all patients preoperatively. Paperwork and charts are completed the day before a patient comes in for a procedure.

Q: What can ASC staff members do to create the best possible environment for physicians?

EH: I think our staff is very aware of physician satisfaction. They go the extra mile. They engage the physicians in conversation and make them feel comfortable. The staff asks the physicians about each patient. Physicians know our staff care about them and their patients.

Postoperatively, nurses will ask the physicians if anything could have been done better. The answer is almost always no, but it is an important question to ask. The physicians understand the door is always open. If there is anything we can improve on, physicians typically feel comfortable relaying that information.

Q: How have you and your staff shaped a culture of engagement?

EH: We try to get together on our "less busy" days. We have potlucks for holidays, like Halloween and Thanksgiving. We share recipes. These kinds of activities provide us a sense of togetherness outside of the normal work environment.

One day, a nurse decided it would be her project to tell people what a great job they had done that day. It has caught on and now the whole staff is doing it. Individual recognition helps.  It makes a big difference when you hear it from a person you work with.

My staff's biggest asset is their teamwork. They care about and lend a hand to each other which helps them get through the busiest of days.

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