Standalone ASCs can stay competitive through recruitment strategy, 1 CEO says

The staffing crisis has made it difficult for many independent ASCs to recruit, but for Santa Cruz (Calif.) Surgery Center, improving benefit packages and increasing coverage has allowed them to compete. 

CEO Lisa Cooper spoke with Becker's ASC Review on how the staffing crisis is evolving the ASC industry. 

Editor's note: This interview has been edited lightly for brevity and clarity. 

Question: How do you predict ASC competition will evolve in the next five years?

Lisa Cooper: The continued trend of consolidation will make it an even tighter staffing market. The race to recruit and retain staff will become stiff with large management companies having their own staffing registry to flex up and down as needed. Standalone centers with fewer than 30 employees will need to be resourceful to remain relevant and attractive to the continued shrinking market of experienced operating room nurses and scrub techs. This staffing crisis has been compounded with COVID-19 as many households have made dramatic changes with the living situation and educational plans. Looking back, having busy surgeons has always been key to attract talent and remain competitive in this market. Going forward, having busy surgeons will not be the key driver — stability with staffing and ongoing training programs will be critical to future success. 

Q: How does your center remain competitive?

LC: At Santa Cruz Surgery Center, they have been improving their benefit packages over the past three years, steadily increasing coverage to stand toe-to-toe with large healthcare systems and ASC management chains. They have expanded their recruitment efforts to a national level, seeking to bring in talent that is not always available locally. As a standalone center with fewer than 30 employees, it has had an uphill battle to stay competitive among the giant healthcare systems and larger ASC chains. As a smaller center, it has been critical to find the ways to offer more personalized and customized service that the larger ASCs and systems have struggled to offer. Being smaller gives one the ability to be more nimble, which is key to longevity. This ability to quickly pivot and be open to new ideas has been key to Santa Cruz Surgery Center’s continued success.

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