News / Periop Café

The Advantages of Working at an Ambulatory Surgery Center

May 25, 2022


The Advantages of Working at an Ambulatory Surgery Center

One consequence of burnout among perioperative nurses is that some not only leave their jobs but they may leave the profession altogether. This area of nursing is the most high-pressure environment, but for many, perioperative nursing is in their blood. What if your love for it hasn’t waned, but you truly need a change? 

While ASCs are struggling with the same challenges as hospital ORs, such as staffing shortages and burnout, nursing at an ASC can be a new ball game for an OR nurse. With the absence of call changes, nights, weekends, and holidays, ASCs have the potential to offer a bit more work/life balance. 

Here are some ways that working at an ASC differs from the hospital OR, courtesy of Robin Menefee, Regional Director of Operations at Sutter Health-Palo Alto Foundation, and Christina Holloway, Corporate Administrator for Ambulatory Surgery Centers. 

More predictable schedules. Hospital ORs need to be on call for emergencies and trauma care (depending on their accreditation status). This means surgical teams need to maintain availability continually. Compare that to a surgery center, where there are definitive business hours, shorter days, and no work on weekends or holidays. ASCs have more flexibility, using shift scheduling to adjust required work hours based on case volumes (for example, working five 8-hour shifts per week or four 10-hour shifts per week). This allows ASCs to offer time off during typical business hours when staff requests it. 

More access to administration. ASCs typically have smaller teams with solid professional relationships. Each member also assumes multiple responsibilities. For instance, administrators will often have more hands-on involvement with patient care in addition to their operational duties. These team dynamics provide a foundation for successful problem solving when challenges arise.    

Cross-training. Because many ASCs have a broad range of surgical service lines, nurses often cross-train to work in multiple specialties. This adds more flexibility in scheduling and allows a nurse to do patient care in the OR, pre/PACU, surgical tech, or SPD. There may also be opportunities to learn how to manage orthopedic, neurosurgery, and cardiac patient care.

More collaborative culture. The ambulatory setting, where people must wear different hats, creates an environment that promotes alliances between departments. Staff members can establish a strong level of trust with the entire team. This is more difficult at a larger facility where there may never be an opportunity to meet everyone who supports patient care needs in its entirety.  

Possible work-from-options. ASC roles can be aligned to home-based practice depending on the facility’s needs. It is not unusual for pre-assessment RNs to manage patient care remotely; working later hours at home means fewer attempts to successfully connect with patients and more in-depth discussions about treatment. Holloway notes that their center has experienced an improvement in positive patient experiences and more robust assessments when transitioning this role to remote. 

Higher efficiency, higher-tech. It’s easier to navigate and access the system for scheduling procedures. ASCs are also more likely to get the most current technology to keep them “lean and mean” within the industry. 

As noted above, ASCs are experiencing the same challenges as other healthcare facilities. One of the ways Menefee is attempting to address these issues is by exploring a “comfort zone” concept: tired and stressed-out employees can take time out to recharge while still getting paid as a way for the organization to acknowledge their service.  

While shifting from nursing in a hospital OR to nursing at an ASC is not a shield from job stress, for some, the change of pace could be just what they need to relieve some of the pressure.