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By Stephen W. Earnhart, MS
President and CEO
Earnhart & Associates, Dallas
I have a saying that I share with all of my facilities: "If you are making your numbers’ each month, you can do anything. If you are not, then you can do nothing."
What do I mean by making your numbers? We all have a job to do in our chosen career, and we all have a yardstick by which we are measured. If you don’t know what that yardstick measurement is, then I am very sympathetic. How difficult it must be to get up everyday and perform a task and never be quite sure if you are doing what is expected of you. One thing I don’t like about owning my own business is that I don’t have a "boss" to tell me what to do each month.
I think having parameters and benchmarks set for us goes back to childhood. "Make your bed, eat your breakfast, do your homework, be home by 10 p.m., etc." Those are guideposts — boundaries. As children, there was great comfort in knowing that we did what was expected of us.
So if they worked then, why can’t they work in our facilities? Actually, they can. Ask your boss, "What am I expected to accomplish today?" Chances are, you’ll confuse them. If they are confused, then you’ll be even more insecure.
Sure, we all have a job description. (I am able to make mine up and change it on a whim.) That job description kind of helps, but you probably looked at it during the interview, thought, "Yeah. Not a problem," and have never seen it again. And, yes, patient safety and quality of care is still job 1, but what is the goal of your role in your facility?
Here is a little insight into a workaholic’s brain: In MS Outlook — a computer software scheduling program — I have a "Task List." My tasks for the day may be as short as 20 items or as long as 75. The nights I sleep best are those when every task has a "complete" check next to it. That day, I have met all my goals. We need to set up the same type of checklist for our centers. We cannot always measure every success target on a daily or weekly basis, but we can monthly. Every center has a target of items it must hit every month or number of cases, turnaround time, supply cost, personnel cost, revenue, start time, etc. Every center needs to measure and post those goals — ideally on a daily basis, and on a monthly basis at the least.
For example, post a chart of the number of cases you are scheduled to do each month to meet your budget or projections. Plot your turnaround time for that day’s cases on a chart in the lounge. (To see charts, click here.) It will give you a great sense of satisfaction and goal to reach for — to say nothing of how it will impress your surgeons to see your really do care. The purpose is to set/identify to all staff their goals and help them reach them by identifying where they are in that endeavor. If your administrator doesn’t post these, then do it yourself on a piece of paper and post it in your locker.
Every facility and department should have a "Goals Bulletin Board." Post these graphs and plot points not only for yourself but also for the staff. I know of administrators and office managers who say, "I don’t need that. It’s all up here," (pointing to their heads). Well, that might be good for you, but not your staff. Show them that you are concerned, and maybe they will be as well.
[Editor’s note: Earnhart and Associates is an ambulatory surgery consulting firm specializing in all aspects of surgery center development and management. Earnhart can be reached at 5905 Tree Shadow Place, Suite 1200, Dallas, TX 75252. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: www.earnhart.com.]