Health Care is the Region’s Fastest Growing Industry: The Community Foundation and Holy Cross Hospital are Ensuring that Employees at all Levels are Growing with it.
As the healthcare industry expands to meet an aging population and changing healthcare policies, hospitals are struggling to find qualified individuals to fill mid-level positions. These jobs require education beyond a high school diploma or GED, but often do not necessitate a 4-year college or medical school degree. Concurrently, frontline employees in entry-level positions find themselves struggling to advance their careers. The Community Foundation reflected on these two challenges and saw an opportunity.
With grants from The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region’s Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative, Holy Cross Hospital has initiated a program to meet the needs of the hospital and advance the careers and job satisfaction of its employees. Employees in entry level positions at Holy Cross may enroll in the School at Work (SAW) career development and healthcare education program. Lead by Kimberly Thomas, Organizational Development Specialist, the six-month course teaches the most relevant skills in communications, general education, and healthcare-specific subjects. The curriculum creates a bridge between entry-level jobs and higher-level positions, while teaching skills that foster greater organizational performance and patient satisfaction.
The Community Foundation recently joined Holy Cross in celebrating the graduation of the third cohort of School at Work. The graduates who spoke at the ceremony emphasized that the SAW program had not only equipped them with essential health care and service skills, it had also been critical in fostering the confidence and motivation needed to pursue career advancement.
“For so long I’ve wanted to continue my education and to advance” said Sharnell Holmes of the hospital’s security department. But before SAW, Holmes believed that “this was just a dream and that I was too old or that it was too late for me to go back to school, so I put my dreams on hold. Thanks to my SAW experience, I’ve had the opportunity to preview various job descriptions and decided that I would love to become a Polysomnographer Technologist (an analyst for sleep disorders)”.
The career planning portions of School at Work’s curriculum first informs students about the possible pathways and positions that are available to them. It then engages each student in setting career goals and designing step-by-step strategies to achieve them. Ms. Holmes’ plan is to begin shadowing members of the Polysomnography department this fall and then to register for a certification class at Washington Metro Institute of Technology.
Kevin Sexton, president and CEO of Holy Cross Hospital, presented the keynote address to recognize the achievements of the students and to make two requests of the graduates: first, to consider continuing their studies and careers in the field of healthcare, and second, to recommend the SAW program to coworkers so that Holy Cross can continue to strengthen and elevate its workforce. The hospital is looking to fill expected areas of critical need as they prepare to open a hospital in Germantown next year. The more employees that move up the ladder through SAW and further training, the better equipped the hospital will be to expand.
“I’ve never had an employer who cared enough about my future to provide me with an opportunity to advance but to also provide me with the tools to advance” Holmes remarks. In their speeches, students warmly thanked not only their instructors and family members but also their supervisors and employers. For Holy Cross, the benefit of the SAW program extends beyond filling critical areas of need: it also seeks to engage and motivate employees, reducing the distance between themselves and management and to provide a clear track for advancement. As a result, the SAW program has been shown to boost morale and decrease employee turnover. Mr. Sexton believes that this relationship will be meaningful as these individuals with skills greatly demanded by their field consider with which hospital to continue their careers.
Rising demand for healthcare services has steadily created new jobs in the region’s healthcare industry throughout the recession. This trend is predicted to continue according to a study from Georgetown University, which estimates 5.6 million new health industry jobs nation-wide by 2020. Holy Cross understands that expansion in the industry deserves and requires a more highly-skilled workforce. Through our investments in Holy Cross and two other local hospitals engaged in similar efforts – MedStar Montgomery Medical Center (MD) and Providence Hospital (DC) – the Community Foundation is not only helping workers advance towards family economic security and helping hospitals address their workforce needs, but also helping to improve the overall quality of care available in our region.