Same-Day Surgery Manger

A tale of two managers — Where is the grass greener?

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

It could happen anywhere. After three days of torrential rains in Atlanta, Mary Jo finally was able to drop off her car at the car wash. As she walked into the office of the car wash, a woman was opening her briefcase and pulling out a recent copy of Same-Day Surgery.

Mary Jo asked, "Do you manage an outpatient surgery program?"

"Yes," she said, "How did you know?"

Mary Jo pointed to the newsletter. "Me, too."

The woman extended her hand, "I'm Vonda."

"Mary Jo. Nice to meet you." Their hands shook.

There was a short silence.

"Where do you work?"

"At the surgery center on Peachtree Circle. You?"

"In the outpatient surgery department at the hospital right down the road," she said as she pointed in the general direction of the hospital.

"Want to compare jobs?" asked Mary Jo, grinning like she was getting ready to do something wicked.

Looking around, Vonda said conspiratorially, "Yeah, but let's keep it between us."

There was a brief silence until one of the nurses spoke up.

"What is the best thing about your job?"

"The people. Definitely the people. It's like we all have a common bond. And, I will admit, challenges from the competition, if you know what I mean." She laughed. "It's like we all have to work harder now."

"Same with us. It's really changed with all the stuff happening in the industry." She was reflective. "But I still wouldn't work any other place."

"Me too. Our biggest issue right now is being more time efficient. They are really on us to get cases started on time and reduce turnover time. Sometimes I think we push the limit on what we can do."

"I know what you mean. But that's really what it is going to take to keep the surgeons working there. But it's not as 'patient-focused' anymore. I miss that."

There was a moment's silence again as they both reminisced.

"Maybe we all need to learn that, the efficiency thing. Seems like that is what everyone, including the patients, want."

The other woman nodded knowingly, "How's the pay?"

"Ah, never enough! But they are trying to come up with incentives that are starting to make sense to everyone. I think we are finally starting to come around to realizing this is a business that, like it or not, revolves around more than just good patient care."

"What about anesthesia? We are having a tough time getting them for cases now that there are all these different locations."

"Yeah, I know. They keep getting pulled in all directions. They complain about it to the docs all the time. Doesn't seem to be much of a solution, however."

The other woman nodded.

"Do you like it? I mean, do you ever think about leaving and coming over to us?"

"No. I mean, yes! I love it. I just couldn't work in your environment. There is nothing wrong with it, it just . . . isn't for me." She leaned over and whispered, "But we do talk about you guys all the time. Sometimes we think you guys are deliberately making it tough for all of us."

She nodded, "Yeah, I know what you mean. We talk about you guys, too, like how you can stand working in that place."

Question: Where does Mary Jo work? [Editor's note: Please send your response and your reasons for choosing that response to Earnhart at Earnhart & Associates is an ambulatory surgery consulting firm specializing in all aspects of surgery center development and management. Contact Earnhart at 1000 Westbank Drive, Suite 5B, Austin, TX 78746. E-mail: Web:]