Same-Day Surgery Manager

Cell phones and other things that annoy me

By Stephen W. Earnhart, MS
Earnhart & Associates
Austin, TX

I had the pleasure of touring several facilities since last month. Three surgery centers and two hospital surgical departments stand out.

Let's start with personnel. I was to meet the administrator of a freestanding center somewhere in the Northeast. I approached the receptionist's desk and waited quietly behind an elderly couple checking in. The receptionist (I had to assume; she did not have on a name tag) was animatedly talking on a cell phone, oblivious to the three of us in line. I just assumed it must have been a surgeon or senior senator or someone equally as important. The elderly gentleman in front of me turned and looked and me and shrugged his shoulder and rolled his eyes in a "what-a-world" expression.

After looking at my watch three times and clearing my throat twice, I decided to take her on. I had nothing to lose. I wasn't having surgery like the couple in front of me, so I was not fearful of retaliation. "Is there someone else that can help us until your finish your call?" I asked politely. I was immediately flash frozen.

"Listen," she said to the other party, "I'll pick up something from the store after work or you can just go out to eat on your own." Click. So much for the senator theory.

I don't like cell phones. I never have, and I never will. They have snatched much of my personal freedom and significantly reduced productivity in the workplace. Most facilities have cell phone policies, but they rarely are enforced. By the way, there was a sign in the waiting room that said, "For the comfort of those around you, please turn off your cell phone." Cute.

Other things that annoy me:

• Cigarette butts.

I proceeded up the walkway of another surgery center. Beautiful flowers lined the sidewalk to the main entrance of the center. The intended illusion was shattered by several hundred cigarette butts scattered among the plants.

• Clutter.

How nervous would you be if you walked onto an airplane and had to twist and turn around old engine parts or discarded chairs and filing cabinets before you could reach your seat? Look down your corridors. What do you see that your patients see?

• Loose lips.

When you or your staff talk loud or in an inappropriate location, people who shouldn't hear you can hear what you say.

• Hospital volunteers.

I am all for helping senior citizens doing volunteer work in hospitals. There should be criteria for hire, however, that includes the ability to hear clearly and speak loudly.

• Parking.

If your patients have to park their cars further than a half-mile of your doors, you shouldn't be in business.

• Pay-to-park lots.

Come on. How cheap can you get when you charge patients $7,000 to repair their hernia and then slap another $18 on them to park their car?

• Double doors that don't open.

One of my fantasies is to break down the door of every set of double doors when one of them doesn't open. Put up a sign.

• Drinking fountains.

If your lips have to touch the base of the fountain because the vertical rise of water is only one-half inch, repair it.

• Bathroom towel dispensers.

If the automated paper towel dispenser in your bathroom gives you only a single-ply, 6-inch strip of paper per swipe, you have no business being in business.

Look around your workplace and use your common sense. You can change the way things are.

(Send Steve your list of what annoys you most in your workplace. We'll share your comments anonymously in a future column. Earnhart & Associates is an ambulatory surgery consulting firm specializing in all aspects of surgery center development and management. Contact him at 1000 Westbank Drive, Suite 5B, Austin, TX 78746. E-mail: Web: