After cutting her teeth working in a large hospital system, practice manager Brenda VanSandt-Fuller was able to streamline many of the processes and procedures at Contemporary Plastic Surgery in Jacksonville, Florida.
Besides just boosting efficiency around the office, she also managed to reduce the costs associated with running a practice—and to pass those saving on to the patients.
That’s no small feat, especially when these tasks included opening an accredited surgical suite.
“I worked in finance, so I knew a lot about budgets, accounts receivable, and accounts payable,” she tells PSP. “When I came on about 10 years ago, we didn’t have our own surgical suite, but we were forced into opening our own due to the cost associated with using a local facility,” she recalls. To keep costs from escalating, VanSandt-Fuller created packs and then searched for the most relevant group purchasing organizations.
“You save at least 50% purchasing items in a pack versus separately,” she says. “It is the biggest savings for our or any practice.” Yes, there was some initial push-back from some of the staff. But “now, they would never go back to pulling items individually. Never.”
This wasn’t all that she learned from her days at the hospital. VanSandt-Fuller also worked in the hospital’s personnel department, which is where she developed her interviewing skills and hiring chops.
When she needs to make a hire, VanSandt-Fuller looks to personality. “We all get along great,” she says. To coax out a candidate’s natural personality, she tries to make them feel more like the interview is a chat between friends. “When they are at ease, they open up.” She also introduces them to the rest of the all-female staff to make sure they will gel.
Leading By Example
This same finesse helps in assuaging an occasionally dissatisfied patient.
“I listen to the patient and acknowledge their concerns,” she says. “We try to make all of our patients happy. That is our goal.” VanSandt-Fuller has some tricks up her sleeve, including a free or discounted service or procedure if a patient has to wait for an excessive amount of time. “Mostly, patients just want to be heard,” she says.
“She responds to every comment, survey, or review that comes in, and then makes a plan of action to address any concerns,” says plastic surgeon Vaishali B. Doolabh, MD, FACS, who owns Contemporary Plastic Surgery.
“Because she has, through her career, worked the front desk, scrubbed cases, and circulated, she has insight into and empathy for other positions that in itself garners much respect from staff,” Doolabh adds. “She has set high expectations for herself and leads by example.”
Still Learning The Ropes
No stranger to this space, VanSandt-Fuller has been supporting plastic surgeons for about 30 years, but times have changed.
“There are devices that freeze fat or heat fat, microneedles and other injectables that are on the market now that weren’t before, and you have to be in the know,” she says. “Patients will be calling your office asking about it, and ‘I don’t know,’ or ‘I have never heard of it,’ is not an impressive answer,” she says.
When not running the practice and learning about what’s new in aesthetics, VanSandt-Fuller enjoys kayak trips and is a lover of all things West Highland White Terrier. She has had upward of 40 rescue, foster, and pet “Westies” throughout the years. n
Denise Mann is the editor of Plastic Surgery Practice. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.