Preparing Your ASC for Employee Departure: 5 Succession Planning Tips From Stateline Surgery Center

Jennifer Morris, administrator of Stateline Surgery Center in Galena, Kan., discusses how her surgery center prepares its employees to move into other positions.

1. Cross-train employees in case of emergencies. You never know when you'll have to replace an employee — whether due to an unexpected departure, an illness or a family emergency. Ms. Morris says she cross-trains her business office and clinical staff members so that they can take on added responsibilities if a coworker leaves the surgery center. "We believe that people can fill in for multiple positions, so we prepare them in case they need to advance," she says. "It gives them a bigger picture of the corporation and how it works."

Cross-training will serve you well if you decide to promote an employee into a managerial position, she says. If you keep employees in cylos, they can work in the same small surgery center with their coworkers every day and never really know what they do. Then if they transition into a management position, they will be unable to communicate properly with those people. For example, she says several staff members are trained on posting and billing, representative relationships and implant management. "You have to make sure your bases are covered," she says. "If someone leaves, billing still has to go out, so our biggest focus on cross-training is for employees in the revenue cycle."  

2. Keep detailed standard operating procedures for every department. Ms. Morris says her surgery center stays organized by keeping binders of standard operating procedures for every department, as well as a "master list" of procedures in the administrator's office. "We have one for basically every job in the surgery center," she says. "How to void a credit card, how to check in a patient — every department has standard operating procedures for every task."

She says this helps in two ways. First, the surgery center staff finds it easier to train new individuals, since they can refer to the handbooks at any time. Second, if an employee moves up through the ranks and assumes new responsibilities, they can be taught a procedure once and refer to the handbook from then on. "They have their notebook of procedures to fall back on," she says. It also helps if an employee is absent and someone needs to fill in; for example, Ms. Morris can refer to the handbook if she needs to check in a patient and hasn't done so in six months.

3. Send transitioning employees to conferences. When Ms. Morris transitioned an employee into a new infection control position, the surgery center sent her to a state conference to brush up on infection control practices. "Any time someone is taking on a new role like that, education is key," she says. "We try to get them into conferences to help them out."

4. Use your local network of facilities. Ms. Morris says her surgery center also gets in touch with other ASCs when an employee has to transition into a new role. "We have a pretty good network of facilities we work with," she says. "My staff members can call those people in the role at the other facility and get advice from them." Don't feel you have to be alone in your education efforts, just because other surgery centers are competing with you. Sharing best practices will foster strong relationships among surgical facilities in the community and make collaboration easier in the future.

5. Promote employees from within to set an example. Ms. Morris says her surgery center tries to promote from within if an employee is qualified for an open position. "It's not always possible, and if that's the case, we'll advertise it externally," she says. She says if your surgery center promotes a few staff members into management positions, employees will get the message that you will reward hard work.

"We do promote the fact that we have moved several people up from within," Ms. Morris says. "It's always someone that everyone respects and thinks highly of to begin with, so we haven't had any issues." She says it sends a positive message to other employees: "Work hard and look for opportunities, and you may be able to score a promotion as well."

Related Articles on Surgery Center Turnarounds:
What Would Mandatory Cost Reporting Mean for ASCs? Q&A With ASCA
100 Surgery Center Benchmarks
7 Steps to Create a Culture of Adaptability at Surgery Centers

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