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Lessons From Surgery Center Management in Alaska

aimeeThis article was written by Amiee Mingus, RN, Director of Clinical Operations at Regent Surgical Health, and republished here with permission.

The Surgery Center of Anchorage is in the middle of a city of over a quarter million people. But it is still Alaska. The staff of the surgery center was reminded of that one summer day when a black bear came to inspect our garbage can outside the front door. We took a picture, hung a sign on the door warning visitors, and life went on.

Then there was the moose that raised calves in the trees near our center each spring. All Alaskans know not to mess with a mother moose. They can weigh over 900 pounds and are fiercely protective of their young. So when she stood behind my car in the parking lot, preventing me from either exiting the vehicle or driving away, I was understandably a bit late to punch in.

These are the extreme examples, but there were other difficult realities of operating a surgery center in Alaska. The most obvious was supplies. Medical supplies are often in short supply in Alaska, and shipping is expensive. Same-day or overnight shipping is often cost-prohibitive or just impossible. Staying constantly aware of inventory was a necessity, as was maintaining relationships with other medical facilities in the area in case we needed to borrow something.

There is a small and strong nursing community in Alaska, but nurses are in short supply everywhere, and Alaska is certainly not immune. Sometimes we would have qualified candidates applying left and right, other times it'd be difficult to get one response to an advertisement.

Through all of this, I learned that you sometimes have to alter your plans. You may not be able to get the staff or equipment that you planned on. I carry that with me now; I don’t panic when things don’t go as planned; I adapt and move on. I try to pass that along to the administrators and DONs that I encounter now—there is always another way to get the job done, so let’s not get too excited if things don’t seem to be moving in the right direction.

Regent Surgical Health provides its centers with the intelligence to determine when it is time to change, and the consultation to determine the best course of action. While working at Surgery Center of Anchorage, there was always someone from Regent to turn to for help, and that is what Regent does best. Whether it's financial, clinical, supply related, whatever—Regent staff is there to lend their expertise and guide you along the right path. We take into consideration the unique issues in each center, be it Alaska or Ohio, and provide you with the tools you need to be successful.

Amiee Mingus is Director of Clinical Operations at Regent Surgical Health. Previously she worked in healthcare in Alaska for over 20 years, and served as a supervisor at Surgery Center of Anchorage, a Regent Surgical Health-managed facility.

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