5 Traits of Highly Successful Surgery Center Directors of Nursing

Greg Zoch, partner and managing director at Kaye/Bassman International Corp., an executive search firm specializing in the ambulatory surgery center industry, discusses five traits he identifies as characteristic of successful ambulatory surgery center directors of nursing.


1. High clinical IQ. "Exceptional ASC nursing leaders have a high clinical IQ," Mr. Zoch says. "By that, I mean they have an exceptional grasp of quality benchmarks and efficiencies from the clinical side of the equation, and how to improve these without compromising outcomes."


This also translates into an understanding of the best materials and supplies from a materials management standpoint. "There's a financial component to a high clinical IQ — knowing when the 'cheap' item actually costs you more money," he says. "While it's easy to let dollars drive your decisions, exceptional clinical directors have the ability to look beyond the dollars and look at the clinical aspect of [materials] in terms of their function and efficaciousness."


2. Ability to manage conflict. "It's no secret that the operating room is a pressure cooker on the best of days, and when things aren't going well, it can only escalate," Mr. Zoch says. "Sometimes that creates conflict. A clinical director's ability to manage that conflict, defuse it, help people learn from it — these are all things that help build teams and retain the best people. And retaining the best people, in any setting, is always good for clinical outcomes and the success of an enterprise. It's always been true that the quality of your people makes or breaks your enterprise."


3. Exceptional interpersonal skills. While this relates to the ability to manage conflict, it also speaks to an individual's ability to manage personnel and manage relationships, including physician relationships. This indirectly becomes a marketing function that might typically fall under an administrator's role; however, the clinical director often spends more time speaking and interacting with the surgeons, Mr. Zoch says.


"As such, the director of nursing is better prepared to know what works and what doesn't work," he says. "Being able to adjust that and make it better for all concerned is also a function of marketing. The clinical director is kind of the hub of the clinical matrix, and he or she is charged with balancing the needs, desires and challenges of staff, patients and their families. What they do impacts physicians, patients and the staff. As the clinical leader, they set the bar for the customer service mindset and facility culture, which will make it easier or harder for physicians, patients and the staff."


4. High energy. "By this, I mean physical energy, mental energy and emotional energy," he says. "These are not 9-to-5 jobs.  They're very demanding on a physical level, emotionally because of the potential conflicts and mentally because there's just a lot of moving parts. There are myriad daily challenges and logistics that make up the inner workings of an ASC. Without a high-energy level, in all those areas, the fatigue can potentially turn into burnout."


5. Financial acumen. "In today's cost-conscious environment, with reimbursement and cost-containment pressures, the truly exceptional clinical leaders understand how materials costs, labor costs and capital equipment factor into the budget, and they are effective at managing that," Mr. Zoch says.


Greg Zoch may be reached at (972) 265-5290 or gnz@kbic.com. Learn more about Kaye/Bassman.

More Articles Featuring Kaye/Bassman:

10 Traits of Highly Successful Surgery Center Administrators

5 Key Differences for Employees Between ASC and Hospital Environments

4 Drivers for Switching Jobs With ASC Recruitment Expert Greg Zoch

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