How many hats does a surgery center materials manager wear every day?

As surgery centers across America come together to celebrate National ASC Month, it’s time to fully recognize the one indispensable role that improves the health of every facility: the materials manager.

It’s no secret that surgery center materials managers juggle a lot of daily responsibilities. What may be a surprise is just how many and varied those responsibilities are. “In an ASC, everyone has to jump in and be part of a team,” said Sharon Johnson, BSN, RN, senior vice president of operations for Ambulatory Surgical Centers of America. In a very real sense, surgery center materials managers are the anchor of the team and support every other function that helps control costs, increase caseload and support quality patient care.

The foundational responsibility is materials management itself. By having a supply chain professional on staff, surgery centers don’t have to delegate these tasks to nurses or other clinicians who aren’t necessarily trained in supply management. The resulting inefficiency can impact surgery center profits. “It is so important supplies are managed on a detailed basis by someone with experience in supply chain operations,” according to Stephanie Martin, RN, senior director of operations at Regent Surgical Health.

Many people might think this is where a materials manager’s job ends, but it’s just the beginning.

Here are the “many hats” worn all day, every day:

Materials manager: Just as the title says, materials managers handle ordering, receiving and stocking the products that clinicians rely on for every case. Without professional management, inventory levels may not match utilization needs. So the surgery center could be at risk for stockouts and tying up too much cash in inventory.

Case picker: Who’s looking at the next day’s schedule, pulling the right preference cards, picking the right supplies—then organizing them all in totes, baskets or on carts? Who can surgery centers count on to help ensure the right supplies are ready for every case, every time? The materials manager.

Sterile processing technician: Materials managers also focus on safety as they get instruments ready for each case. So when clinicians turn to the instrument tray, they know every item is ready to use.

Scrub technician: Many materials managers were scrub techs first. So, lending a hand in the OR on busy days feels right at home. From setting up the instrument table to assisting the surgeon, these materials managers help boost efficiency and keep the OR on schedule.

OR turnover expert: To further increase turnover efficiency, materials managers help with clean up in the OR and opening supplies for the next case.

Instrument repair manager: Imagine a surgeon reaching for an instrument at a critical time, and it’s not there. To help ensure that doesn’t happen, materials managers keep surgical instruments in good working order. So they’re always ready, when the surgeon needs them.

General troubleshooter: You never know where the next problem is going to come from: equipment, supplies, instruments—you name it. But clinicians and surgery center staff know where to turn for the answer: the materials manager.

Efficiency expert: Materials managers are always looking for new opportunities to control costs and streamline workflow—all to help the surgery center provide better care. For example, materials managers work with their distributors to introduce clinically equivalent products with the potential to lower costs.

Surgery center materials managers may wear a lot of hats, but they all share a common goal: to improve the quality of care for every patient. To celebrate all that they do, we’ve created special ways to say “thank you” to materials managers. Click here to see all the ways you can share your appreciation with a materials manager you know.

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