Culture is king: How ASCs are winning in the staffing crisis

While ASCs in many markets can't compete with hospital salaries, many are coming out on top with creative recruiting strategies and a positive work environment. 

"We are engaging our teams in meaningful ways to promote a positive culture. We are putting our talented team members first. We are creating staffing models that will allow for greater job satisfaction and work life balance," Amanda Sosnosky, administrator of Orthopedic Surgery Center of Green Bay (Wis.) and Orthopedic Surgery Center of the Fox Valley in Elgin, Ill., told Becker's Oct. 12. 

Ms. Sosnosky's team is creating a better culture for employees by allowing for flexible shift options. While this is an added cost, she hopes it will foster a positive workplace culture. 

Staffing costs are soaring for ASCs amid a tightening job market, with many employers setting aside an average of 3.9 percent of payroll this year for wage increases, according to The Wall Street Journal. Surgery centers spend on average $2.2 million on employee salary and wages, about 21.3 percent of net revenue, according to the VMG Health's "Multi-Specialty ASC Benchmarking Study." Pay for ASC administrators is also rising, hitting $100,000 to $119,000 on average, according to OR Manager.

ASCs reimbursements are historically lower than hospital outpatient departments for the same procedures, meaning low staffing costs are critical to meet margins, but many ASCs are opting for long-term retention strategies over salary boosts. 

"The ability to hire good people and keep them has changed immensely over the last two years," Jeremy Statton, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Arthritis & Total Joint Specialist in Atlanta told Becker's. "We used to take outstanding staff for granted, and now that has changed. We are working on finding new ways to show our staff how much we appreciate them. "

Some physicians are also looking to ASCs over hospital settings for the workplace culture they can provide. ASCs can not only give financial opportunities for physicians in the form of equity or ownership, but they also can offer a more flexible work experience and an opportunity for autonomy. 

"We believe our best medicine is practiced when physicians work collaboratively in an environment where mutual respect is paramount and trusting collegiality is the norm," Ronjon Paul, MD, spine surgeon and chair of the spine surgery department at Naperville, Ill.-based Duly Health and Care, told Becker's. "Staying open, honest and authentic sounds simple, but it must be deliberate and organic. Creating this environment is a priority because it's where I enjoy spending my time."

Many physicians are also seeking a work-life balance that ASCs can offer. With set schedules and a smaller team, most ASCs can ensure physicians a structure that many employed models cannot. 

It's not just smaller ASCs focusing on culture. SCA Health CEO Caitlin Zulla told Becker's her team is also prioritizing culture. 

"We are passionate about creating a culture where every teammate can bring their full, authentic self to work and one where inclusion, integrity, trust, and transparency are at our core," she said. 

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