Resilient, adaptable, cohesive: 10 ASC leaders describe their teams


Ten ASC leaders spoke with Becker's ASC Review on how they would describe their teams in one word over the past year. 

Here's what they said:

These excerpts were edited lightly for clarity and brevity. 

Scott Smallwood. Administrator of Bend (Ore.) Surgery Center. Resilient. The Bend Surgery Center Staff had to face the personal and professional challenges brought about by COVID — will my workplace be safe? Will there be adequate and appropriate personal protective equipment? Will I be safe? How will I make ends meet? Flexibility, adaptability and resilience were a must. The staff maintained positive attitudes, care for their patients, care for themselves and trust in management and the organization.

Sandy Kirkland, RN. Director of Nursing at Dothan (Ala.) Surgery Center. Adaptable. They have rolled with the flow and been able to make changes in midstride — anything from being furloughed for a couple of weeks to light schedules to heavy schedules and any in between. They have changed up some cleaning techniques and PPE recommendations and have done all of this with grace. My staff would also have the word “amazing” attached to their description and have truly been game changers over this past year.

Rob Taylor, RN. Clinical Director of Constitution Surgery Center East (Waterford, Conn.). A cohesive team is best defined as a group of people working toward a common goal. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate term for my staff, especially over this past year. We never laid anyone off during the pandemic. We kept everyone employed with no interruption in pay. We all stuck together. We all worked tirelessly to continue to provide care and services to our patients throughout the pandemic. We accomplished this by being vigilant in our efforts to minimize potential viral exposure to ourselves both inside and outside of work. Through these efforts, we were able to provide a safe and fully staffed facility to decompress both area hospitals of their urgent surgical cases during the height of the pandemic. When a team is cohesive, they look out for one another because they know a team functions best with everyone participating. Nursing is a team sport.

Valerie Miller, BSN, RN. Clinical Director of Texas Endoscopy (Plano). Adaptive with every change the government or our company threw at us/them. From wearing masks, to going to get patients in their cars and screening them in all kinds of weather before bringing them in the building, to learning a new system while keeping patient satisfaction scores up, they adapted with grace and loyalty — not only to the patients, but to me and the company.

Kathy S. Witham, RN, BSN. Clinical Co-Director of the Surgery Center at Pelham (Greer, S.C.). Our staff has been so resilient and strong during the past year. Even though we were closed for six weeks due to COVID-19, everyone remained employed. We are working hard to take care of patients who had to postpone important medical procedures.  

Grace McGovern, BSN, RN. Director of Nursing at Galileo Surgery Center (Atascadero, Calif.). Resilient because they have gone through many many changes throughout the last year. It has been difficult being short-staffed, wearing PPE and having fear about contracting COVID-19. They have bounced back and have gotten stronger. My team has overcome the pandemic and continues to fight hardships brought to them. Resilient people are those who have control of their surroundings by understanding and anticipating the challenges early and have great problem solving skills. They do not fall apart, rather get stronger. They communicate better, have better relationships with each other and have developed leadership skills.

Karen Rouse. Clinical Manager of Plainfield (Ill.) Surgery Center. Awesome. Each one has stepped up to providing a clean and safe environment for themselves and the patients. The post-anesthesia care unit nurses have walked through with each patient the need for a COVID-19 test before the procedure at the center. A result of this relationship that they developed during the middle of the pandemic, we would have families call in to let us know about an exposure that either the family had or the patient themselves; thus, our staff did not have an unnecessary exposure. Staff has worked as a team to make sure that everyone understands new COVID-19 policies as they are sent out.

Jennifer Cornelius. Clinical Director at North Memorial Ambulatory Surgery Center (Osseo, Minn.). Flexible. Given all of the challenges we have faced, our team has been flexible to meet the needs of our patients and partners and to face the demands of COVID-19.

Carrie Marut. Director of Nursing at Mentor (Ohio) Surgery Center. Amazing. Being closed for a period of time and not knowing what might happen in the months to come puts stress on staff. Then reopening to get ready for patients again was another big undertaking. On top of that, a new boss — it adds to the stress. They seem to take it in waves. They have all come together to get the center back up and running and ready to take patients. Then, on top of that, they have all adjusted very well to me. A fresh set of eyes with new ideas and changes. (A=awe-inspiring, M=marvelous, A=affecting, Z=daZzling, I=incredible, N=uNforgettable, G=go-getting) 

Ken Summerhays, RN. Director of Nursing Services of Coral Desert Surgery Center (St. George, Utah). Resilient. At the beginning of COVID-19, they were concerned for the health of our patients, of their families and loved ones, and their own health as we faced an unknown. There was the joy and hope that comes with birth and the sadness and loss that comes with death. Common commodities were hard to come by. They were confronted with a sudden stoppage in work, not knowing if and when it would return to normal. When we did open up, our ramp-up period was very short and accelerated — quickly eclipsing our volume before COVID-19, necessitating their willingness to work long hours and train new staff to help with our increased workload. They experienced life from both ends of almost every spectrum, yet they are back, caring for patients, caring for families, training new staff and stronger than ever.

Kyle Dorshorst. Clinical Director of Ambulatory Surgical Center of Stevens Point (Wis.). Adaptable — COVID-19 brought many challenges to our ASC operations from many different angles, and our team was willing to not only step up but go above and beyond to provide patient care to our community. From clinical operations, to business operations, to facility maintenance, we were continually revising the flow of care and operations to stay current with recommendations to provide safe care for our patients while keeping our staff and visitors safe as well. I saw our team’s exceptional willingness and ability to adapt moment by moment; they helped one another and did whatever was needed by the surgery center to get through this past year.

Sandra Beers. COO of Pinnacle Surgery Center (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Extraordinary. They care about each other, both personally and professionally, and helped protect our employees from the full emotional and financial impact that 2020 dropped on us. Those who could go without a paycheck stayed home so that others, who needed hours, could work. For the months that we had no patients, the business allowed us to paint the entire surgery center to keep busy, which showed us that the owners truly cared. Staff donated money to those who could not pay their rent.

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