ASCs operating at 'breakneck' speed to compete with HOPD staffing

Sandra Berreth, RN, director of the Foothill Surgery Center at Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, Calif., joined Becker's to discuss the solutions to the biggest challenges in ASCs today.

Editor's note: This piece was edited lightly for clarity and length. 

Question: What are the solutions to the biggest challenges you're seeing for ASCs today?

Sandra Berreth: Truthfully, if I had the answer I would be the most sought out person in the ASC industry. Here are the challenges that I hear every day from ASC managers: staffing, staffing and staffing. Do you see a trend? … An ASC cannot do anything without staff. 

Employees are registered nurses (these are talented people who are well-trained to deliver a superior product on a daily basis); surgical technologists (again, these wonderfully talented people, just like the nurse, can never have a bad day, make a mistake or just be tired). Surgeons expect surgical technologists to know their every move; in fact, sometimes the surgeons depend on that knowledge. There's also materials management (these folks are the people that have to get what everyone wants when they want it.) 

Next is the sterile processing department. Infection control is their middle name. …  If they make a mistake, infection control is at risk, and with ASCs having less than 1 percent infection reports, these people have a lot to live up to.

There's also office personnel and support staff. Just think, they have to greet the patient at what might be one of the scariest moments of a person's life. They are often the first visual impression of the entire organization; it is up to them to be welcoming and friendly while asking for signatures, lots of signatures and … deductibles and copays. 

All healthcare personnel are being challenged to be better and do more. It doesn't matter if you are in an ASC (where it is hard work) or teaching in a major medical center. No one wants to do the hardest, most difficult jobs there are, and ASC personnel are expected to perform daily with only thanks from their administration. 

ASCs cannot compete with hospital wages, as our reimbursement is less than 50 percent of what a hospital outpatient department reimbursement is. Here is the issue: HOPDs offer the same hours as the ASC, with the added hospital benefits and increased wages. How can ASCs compete with that? Simply, we can't, so every day, we work at breakneck speed and efficiency, employing everything we know to maintain the cleanest environment and safest working conditions, and above all, we keep the patient safe, with the highest patient satisfaction rate in the industry.

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