5 Ways Positive ASC Employee Culture Translates to Profitability

Here are five ways a positive employee culture can translate into increased profitability for ambulatory surgery centers.

Linda Ruterbories1. Happy staff improve patient satisfaction. One of the hot topics among ASC leaders today is employee culture. A positive patient experience is essential moving toward more consumer-driven healthcare, and cooperative staff members will enhance patient experience tremendously.

"You need to work on staff culture so the patients recognize staff members are happy in the workplace," says Linda Ruterbories, ANP, ASC Director at OA Centers for Orthopaedics in Portland, Maine. "When a healthcare provider's attitude is such that they are smiling, even though patients are lying in bed in the recovery room, they notice how our staff members act."

Ms. Ruterbories holds staff meetings every two weeks to help build their team. "The team members are stepping up and presenting about what 'team concept' means to them," she says. "They talk about what they find value in as a team member and share that with the group."

At the heart of these initiatives, Ms. Ruterbories hopes a positive culture will build trust and communication across her team. "It doesn't matter how good protocols and equipment are, if you don't have teamwork you won't have a highly functioning system," says Mr. Wipfler. "Linda spent a lot of time building trust, breaking down communication barriers and getting people to work through issues in real time. If people are happy, you'll see better quality and more efficiency, and they'll be able to do their work better."

Mary Sturm2. ASCs are more efficient when everyone works together.
It's important to cross train staff members at ambulatory surgery centers because the team is lean, but every responsibility must be covered on a vacation or sick day. However, the cross training can also come in handy during regular days so staff members can recognize what needs to happen and complete the task, even if it is outside of their department.

"I think one of the things that is very effective for surgery centers is to create a culture where the different disciplines kick in for room turnover to get things done," says Mary Sturm, senior vice president of clinical operations at Surgical Management Professionals. "Sometimes in an OR in big hospitals, there are strict lines that nursing doesn't help anesthesia and vice versa; everyone has their job and they don't stretch out of that role. Surgery centers are encouraging staff to see what can be done and educating them about how to assist in getting it done."

With an extra set of eyes and helping hands, surgery center staff and providers can make sure everything gets done quickly and efficiently for the next patient.

3. Leadership promotes long-term investment in the center.
To help every staff member feel involved in the center, Lori Martin, administrator of Summit Surgery Center at St. Mary's Galena (Ill.), recommends giving everyone some added responsibility outside their regular roles. For example, at her ASC, one person is in charge of the CTQ patient satisfaction process, while another heads up medication management for the center.

"Everybody has a full-time responsibility other than their day-to-day job," she says. "When they have downtime, they can work on their project." She says this means every staff member is fully invested in the center and can see their part in the facility's progress. She adds that every staff member enjoys having an additional title, such as "infection control officer" in addition to "pre-op nurse."

Low staff turnover is beneficial for the surgery center because hiring and training employees takes time and resources. Work to build a strong team of people who are loyal to the center and invested in its success.

4. Familiarity in the OR leads to fewer mistakes.
An important part of OR culture is making sure all the people in the operating room work as a team, says Gina Pugliese, RN, MS, vice president of Premier's Safety Institute. "Everyone should feel comfortable speaking up," she says. "That's been a challenge for years in the OR, in particular because the surgeon was always in charge and the residents were afraid to ask questions." She says hospitals have to take action to reverse this culture, which privileges hierarchy over patient safety.

One simple way to do this is to ask everyone to use first names in the OR — even the physicians. "You have to be able to feel that you're all on the same page," she says. At the beginning of the surgery, everyone should go around the room and say their first name and their role in the operating room, to increase the sense of unity.

Dr. Jill Sackman5. Creative problem solving overcomes issues before they get too big.
Today's ever-changing healthcare environment requires flexibility and adaptability for ASCs to navigate successfully. If you would like to create a culture of adaptability, make sure you foster creative thinking among employees and reward those who exhibit adaptable behavior.

"The culture of the center should reward innovation creatively and encourage staff members to think outside the box," says Dr. Jill Sackman, a senior consultant with Numerof & Associates. "You can incentivize them with a formal reward or informal recognition."

Rewards can include gift certificates, afternoons off or a preferred parking space; informal recognitions might be an e-mail thanking them for their suggestion or hand written note praising their skills.

"Recognize employees who are flexible and willing to take risks to solve problems on the job," says Dr. Sackman. "You need to think about fostering this collaborative thinking through how the organization works and hold employees accountable for their actions. Create structured brain storming sessions and spend time problem solving with them, which can be highly impactful."

Be sure to communicate the results of their suggestions with employees. Even if you aren't able to implement their plan, let them know you appreciate their suggestion but it isn't feasible for your center at that time.

More Articles on Surgery Centers:

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10 Strategic Initiatives for ASCs to Prepare for the Future

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