1. Cohen, Shelley RN, CEN, BS

Article Content

Through various experiences in our everyday lives, we've all learned the process of negotiating for an ideal transaction. As a nurse manager, you'll need to tap into these experiences to work optimally with equipment vendors.


Shop around

Whether you're buying a car or procuring clinical equipment, it's important to get the most value possible. When making a major purchasing decision, check and compare for:


* price


* product features


* testimonials from current owners


* warranty coverage


* availability for servicing if/when needed.



Additional differences include the following:


* Your purchase decision affects patient care from caregiver and patient perspectives.


* Some purchase decisions require knowledge related to regulatory requirements for safety and other concerns.


* Many people rely on you to make good decisions in selecting the appropriate vendor.


* Corporate ethics policies and guidelines may affect which vendors you consider.



Know your budget

Before discussing logistics with vendors, know exactly what you need, how much you're able to spend, and the benefits you'll get for their services. Use the following steps to organize a system in preparation for working and negotiating with vendors:


* Identify your need for the product or service.


* Determine your range of budget.


* Separate specific features into "must-haves" and "would-like-to-haves."


* Conduct research to determine if any regulations apply to the product or its use.


* Confirm any corporate ethics guidelines related to working with vendors.


* Confirm any restrictions in vendor selection with purchasing.


* Identify available vendors that provide the product or service.


* Determine who your contact person will be for each vendor, and get contact information.



Make an informed choice

Before choosing a vendor, network with in-house managers, purchasing staff, specialty organizations, and other facilities to gather testimonials. Prepare a list of specific questions such as:


* What factors led them to decide to use a particular vendor?


* Has the vendor followed through on all commitments for training, delivery time, service, and maintenance?


* Is the vendor readily available and easy to contact?



Narrow your selection to two or three vendors, and schedule each of them to make a formal presentation to you and your staff. Determine if the vendor can leave the sample product for staff to try, and institute a formal process for staff members to document their feedback.


As the negotiations process begins to wind down, be sure you:


* don't feel pressured to make quick decisions


* have all of your information in writing, including any early offers or negotiations


* review who'll give you "the most for your money" in all aspects


* consider staff input.



Good choice, great results

By involving personnel, treating vendors respectfully, using your consumer purchasing skills, and meeting the needs of the patient, you'll find working with vendors is a helpful learning experience in your development as a leader.