The investments ASCs can't afford to skip

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As ASCs continue to face staffing shortages nationwide, many leaders are putting their money into retaining and recruiting talent. 

Many ASCs struggle to compete with the deep pockets of hospitals and health systems for available staff. Some ASCs spend one-fourth or more of their net operating revenue on employees to stay ahead of shortages, according to a report from VMG Health. 

“We’re looking to add additional procedures that are of a higher complexity and as such require highly trained/skilled clinical staff,” Bruce Feldman, administrator at New York City-based Bronx Ambulatory Surgery Center, told Becker’s. “We are facing greater competition for these individuals from hospitals and large healthcare systems that can offer higher salaries and richer benefit packages along with large sign-on bonuses.”

Here are five ways ASC leaders are investing in staff:

1. Anesthesia providers

ASCs are investing in certified registered nurse anesthetists and anesthesiologists as the anesthesia industry faces a growing provider shortage paired with a decline in reimbursements. 

“The biggest investment this year is in recruiting and retaining anesthesiologists and CRNAs,” Gary Haynes, MD, PhD, professor of anesthesiology at New Orleans-based Tulane University School of Medicine, told Becker’s. “If we fail at that, we will have an even bigger expense in retaining locums anesthesiologists and CRNAs.”

Julie Berzins, BSN, RN, director of nursing and vice president for operations at Indianapolis-based Indiana Vascular Surgery Center, told Becker’s the biggest investment her team made in 2023 was hiring a full-time anesthesiologist. 

“Our patient acuity level is higher than an average ASC, so we invested in the safety of our patients, adherence to patient selection criteria and adequately training our staff,” she said. “On a whole, investing in our staff is very important, expensive and time consuming.”

2. Clinical nursing leadership

Other leaders, like Janet Carlson, MSN, RN, executive director for ASCs at Louisville, Ky.-based Commonwealth Pain & Spine, are focusing on recruiting clinical nursing leadership for new ASCs.

“Talented and knowledgeable human capital is the most important investment a business can make,” she told Becker’s. “Once that leadership team is assembled, we can execute on our ambulatory surgical strategic vision and provide outstanding care to our patients in all of the communities we serve.”

3. Employee raises

Offering raises to existing staff is also a key investment focus for ASCs.

“In 2023, we made major modifications to our staffing structures and pay scales,” Todd Currier, administrator of Bend (Ore.) Surgery Center, told Becker’s. “Investing in our staff was and continues to be an ongoing priority for our business.”

4. Training programs

The biggest investment Jene’ Becerra, BSN, RN, nurse administrator and director of nursing at Crown Point (Ind.) Surgical Suites, made was comprehensive staff training programs. 

“By focusing on employee satisfaction and team building, we will create a more cohesive and motivated workforce,” she said. “This investment will include workshops and seminars to improve clinical skills and patient interaction. We will also implement regular team-building activities to foster a supportive and collaborative work environment. When our staff is happy and well trained, they can provide exceptional care, ensuring our patients have the best possible experience.”

Jessica Rodriguez, executive director at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based OAM Surgery Center, also invested in training programs. 

“We are expanding our professional development and education programs, which include more on-the-job training sessions, continuous education opportunities and specified career paths for several roles within the organization,” she said. “By equipping our employees with the latest skills and knowledge, we ensure they remain at the forefront of industry trends and innovations, thereby increasing their value to the company and their career satisfaction.”

5. Employee well-being

Some ASCs are investing in resources that boost employee well-being. Johnny Russell, director of area operations at Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health, told Becker’s his team is offering flexible work schedules, including part-time or reduced hours. 

“When staff feel valued, we see improved employee satisfaction, greater stability in employee tenure and a positive impact on patient care,” he said. 

Ms. Rodriguez is also invested in wellness programs. 

“We continue to enhance our employee wellness programs,” she told Becker’s. “This initiative includes comprehensive health and wellness plans, mental health support and work-life balance initiatives such as flexible working hours and remote work options when possible. Recognizing the critical link between well-being and productivity, we aim to create an environment where employees can thrive both personally and professionally.”