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Rebecca_Paine.jpgThere are more than 700 people in the U.S. who have earned the CASC (Certified Administrator Surgery Center) credential, but you might be surprised to find that they don’t all have traditional healthcare backgrounds. In this blog series, we'll get a personal look into the lives of a few of those intrepid individuals who bear the CASC certification but took a unique career trajectory getting there, highlighting the ways being a CASC has helped them be more effective at their jobs today.

At first glance, it may seem that someone with a 15-year career in banking and zero clinical experience has no business entering the medical field, but finance experience is more transferable to healthcare than you might think. When I joined Beckley Surgery Center, the ambulatory surgery center (ASC) for Mountain State ENT & Aesthetics in West Virginia, there were many skill sets that I could import from my former career to improve the business.

Beckley is a multi-specialty surgery center offering ENT, plastics, GI, pain management, ophthalmology, podiatry and orthopedics services. With West Virginia being a CON state, it is a hurdle for a single owner to accomplish this with no hospital affiliation, and something we take pride in.

I first joined as CFO and, in addition to handling all things financial — including many duties an administrator at another facility might take on, such as working with the healthcare authority and producing our annual financial report — my background in risk management and experience developing software programs helped elevate the processes of the center.  After 20 years in existence, the combined facilities had grown to almost 50 employees, and I was able to help them operate more like a corporation rather than a small business.

After seeing the center go through several administrators during my 5 years as CFO — and with a limited pool of qualified candidates in the West Virginia area — I decided to step into the admin role as well. Full disclosure: my husband is a physician and owner of the surgery center. That was the reason for my initial career change 5 years ago. But while I had learned so much about the clinical aspects of the center during that time, I wanted to have the credentials to hold the administrator title, demonstrating that I’ve learned what I need to know and that I will continue learning to operate the center in a compliant fashion. That’s why I decided to take the CASC exam.

As experienced as I felt I was on the corporate side having been involved with the bank, there were so many things that I still needed to learn specific to the ASC role. This is a highly regulated environment, and I wanted to be sure I knew how to make the right calls. I still don’t know everything there is to know as an ASC administrator, but I believe that having the CASC credential and demonstrating that I want to know how to do the job correctly goes a long way with regulatory bodies.

It was certainly a challenge, but the CASC certification has provided me with the working knowledge to run the center, and the confidence to defend my position. Preparing for the test took a great deal of work and study, but what I learned has been invaluable. I run into something daily that leads me back to the exam materials, and I find myself repeatedly referencing the things that I’ve learned.

If you’re considering taking the CASC exam, make sure to give yourself enough time to prepare. The subject matter is very broad; I would suggest giving yourself a year to study, particularly if you don’t have a clinical background. Even if you don’t have that much time to devote, just taking the exam provides a great learning experience. That’s how I looked at the challenge. I knew I had learned so much studying for the exam that would be beneficial whether I passed or not. It was icing on the cake when I passed!

What would you "Ask a CASC" if you had the chance? We've begun this Q&A blog series to help you navigate the most important issues in ASC management. Submit your questions in the form on the right and check back for answers from SourceMed's own CASC certified experts.