Same-Day Surgery Manager

Are staff happy, and do you care? You should

Use these ideas to boost staff satisfaction

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

Checklist: No. 1: Patient satisfaction survey results. No. 2: Physician satisfaction survey results.

Surveys complete! Yes!

I admit to being more concerned about the above than what is happening with my own staff in my own centers. Deliberate? No. I just don't think of checking on my own staff members to see if their needs are met. I am paying them and providing benefits. Isn't that enough? What else do they need?

Some will say "a job where their needs are met, and they are happy!" Really? I need to ensure that as well? As if dealing with patients, anesthesia, surgeons, and that new VP that doesn't know squat wasn't enough. Now this? With unemployment running high and good jobs rare, one would think that just having a job should meet their needs and make them happy. Apparently not.

Years ago I was working with a hospital (or it could have been a surgery center) and looking at the cost per case and other benchmarks for them. A nurse came into the cubby I was working in. "This is the worse place in the world to work," she blubbered out. "The management is horrible, and everyone hates it here. They treat us like crap! Put that in your stupid report!" With that she spun around and ran out the door, as she was crying.

I sat there a moment, stunned at what just happened. I tried to shake it off, but I couldn't continue my work. I started flipping through my questions and information I had to complete for the client on their facility. I had lots of issues on productivity, patient and physician satisfaction, manhours per case, return on investment, and the like. I was surprised to find that I have nothing at all on staff satisfaction. I was sitting in a $75 million dollar facility that had no idea how satisfied their staff members were in their jobs. The major key to patient and surgeon satisfaction was not even mentioned.

From that day forward, I added "staff satisfaction" to all our reports. I have changed around the questions and methods over the years, but here is a start to seeing how happy your staff is:

• Hold a one-on-one meeting with each staff member twice a year. You should ask:

–– "Are you happy here?" (Most will tell you what you want to hear. Read on.)

— "Who are your friends at work?" (I know; it's personal. But ask anyway.)

— "What activity at (your facility name here) do you enjoy the most?" (If they say "everything," they are lying. No one likes everything about any job. Press on!

— "Do you have any stresses at your job that can be resolved by talking about them? (You will be surprised at how few will mention money, unless, of course, you are just cheap.)

— "Is there anything I can do that would make your employment here better or more satisfying for you?" (Surprisingly, the answer to this question usually requires very, very minor work adjustments.)

— "What are your long-term goals here?"

— "If you could, what would you do that would make people look forward to coming to work here?"

• Assign every member of your staff some routine function to do each month.

Keep it simple, brief, and obtainable. Overwhelmingly, staff members enjoy being part of the process. Have a list of tasks that would be great to be done that take very effort to do, and ask staff members to sign up for them. Can't think of any? I can:

— Check for outdated magazines in the waiting room, and discard the old and worn.

— Help with the preop and postop patient calls.

— "Monitor" the waiting room to hear what patients are saying out there. The staff member wears street clothes and just sits there with a magazine and listens to comments made by patients and their families.

— Walk around the department looking for stained ceiling tiles, accumulating debris, etc., and report them to housekeeping.

— Collect data for your quality improvement program.

— "Audit" charts or records for completeness.

— Check other hospitals' or surgery centers' social media sites to see what they're doing that you aren't. Another easy way to find out what's happening elsewhere is to follow Same-Day Surgery on Twitter (@SameDaySurgery).

— Go to surgeons' offices and visit with their staff about your services.

— Assemble charts, folders, etc.

— Use a labelmaker to replace dirty or worn labels on drawers.

• At every staff meeting, make sure there is some reference to how the staff is doing.

Ask for volunteers to give a five-minute update on staffing issues not related to the usual, such as whose birthday is coming up, an after-hours meeting place for interested staff, book reviews, great websites to visit (such as and, new movie reviews, interesting hobbies staff members have, etc.

In other words, get involved in what is going on with your staff!

Let your human resources department know what you're thinking of doing, and get their input. They can offer many more suggestions for keeping your staff happy and productive. [Editor's note: Earnhart & Associates is a consulting firm specializing in all aspects of outpatient surgery development and management. Earnhart & Associates new address is 238 S. Egret Bay Blvd., Suite 285, Houston, TX 77573-2682. Phone: (512) 297.7575. Fax: (512) 233.2979. E-mail: Web:]