“There’s a lot of competition in this region for entry-level employees, so we started to look at how to better retain talent at EAMC,” said Karen Gresham, RN, director of education services. “Our frontline employees wanted opportunities for development and promotions, and we realized we had a gap in what we offered at the entry level.”
In 2005, EAMC began offering Catalyst Learning’s School at Work (SAW), a career development program for entry-level healthcare associates, to frontline employees to help them advance within the organization through clinical or administrative positions. Today, more than 130 employees have graduated from the program and more than half of those employees have been promoted. Ten percent of SAW students have gone on to earn a college degree.
In the beginning, Gresham admits, some managers were hesitant to recommend employees for SAW because they didn’t want to see talented employees leave their departments. That way of thinking, however, has shifted as managers experience firsthand the positive effect SAW has on employees as they develop skills in areas like medical terminology, soft skills and math.
“Employees are more confident, more engaged and they are speaking up,” said Gresham. “They are making a difference in their departments.”
The focus is now on EAMC’s mission for high quality, compassionate care, and the opportunity for SAW participants to grow into roles where they are providing better care for patients. Many SAW participants move into positions where they are interacting with patients and families, and they are expected to be good examples for compassionate customer service.
SAW graduates also have personal development plans with clear goals for what they want to accomplish. Managers recognize SAW graduates for more than just their job title. They are career-oriented employees who have computer skills, as well as important soft skills such as the ability to handle conflict and difficult situations.
EAMC has taken its commitment to entry-level employees a step further with a strong focus on “what’s next?” for SAW graduates. Will the employee go to school on a scholarship or with tuition reimbursement? How will the employee grow in his or her current role? Additionally, all SAW graduates go through EAMC’s internal financial university to learn how to manage their personal finances.
Building on their success, leadership development programs expand to frontline nurses
These high standards are the result of carrying out EAMC’s mission to deliver the best possible care, but much like EAMC’s experience with entry-level employees, the organization’s robust leadership development program wasn’t reaching frontline nurses or addressing the development needs of nurse managers and charge nurses.
Given their success with SAW, EAMC again turned to Catalyst Learning for a solution. Catalyst had recently launched NCharge, an evidence-based curriculum that gives first level supervisory nurses the skills they need to more effectively lead. The program was in line with EAMC’s leadership development and succession planning goals. NCharge is now a part of EAMC’s official succession plan.
“I just loved the program [NCharge] right away. It spoke to me as a nurse,” said Rosemary Cummings, director of medical surgical services. “When I started as a labor and delivery nurse, I was put in charge after being on the floor for three months or so. If I’d had some of this info, I could have done more with that position. So, I understood what we were lacking, not having anything for those supervisors.”
Recognizing the importance of having experience in a nurse leadership role, EAMC decided to have nurse managers like Cummings deliver the NCharge content. Each nurse manager is paired with an educator who can help deliver the curriculum. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
As with SAW, the success of NCharge is dependent on buy-in from managers and their willingness to allow frontline staff time away from their regular duties to complete the program. Once managers learned the objectives and how a leadership program developed specifically for nurses could make a difference, they were on board. This year, EAMC will also offer NCharge to managers to give them a firsthand understanding of what NCharge participants are learning.
EAMC is focused on results and a return on their investment. Two groups of 20 nurses have gone through the program and checkpoints are now in place to see if the nurses are using the skills they are learning.
Managers are seeing improved engagement and confidence among nurses and a positive change in communication with physicians and other employees. One participant shared with Cummings that she uses different parts of NCharge every day, for example finance and value-based purchasing skills that are typically learned on the job. Two nurses who have completed the program have been promoted to managers.
EAMC’s long-term goal for its nurse leadership development program is sustainability. Cummings and other instructors are planning lunch-and-learns with the two groups who have gone through NCharge to discuss how they are leveraging their new skills and which tools are most effective. The lunches will also be an opportunity for participants who formed a bond completing the program together to reconnect.
“We are not part of a big organization, but we offer quality healthcare here. We take a lot of pride in how we do things from a quality and cost perspective,” said Cummings. “It helps our frontline supervisors to see we’re investing in them. Development at this organization is an important piece of who we are. I think that’s why people stay.”
With inpatient, outpatient, home health and palliative care services, Mercy Health Youngstown is the largest employer in the Mahoning Valley region of Ohio. Investments in employee development, therefore, have a positive impact on both the health system and on the community at large, making this a top priority for senior leadership.
Mercy Health Youngstown has expanded access to skills and leadership training for entry-level workers with education programs, college tuition reimbursement and opportunities for career advancement. Entry-level employees with leadership potential, for example, are encouraged to enroll in School At Work (SAW), a training and career development program created by Catalyst Learning Company.
SAW participants complete a series of modules led by a Learning Coach in the Culture and Learning Department at Mercy Health Youngstown. The Principles of Patient Satisfaction and Safety module has proved to be especially valuable.
“We found the Patient Satisfaction course very useful because entry-level employees didn’t realize how the little things they do affect patients and patient satisfaction. Sometimes patients arrive at the hospital frustrated and hard to please, so this particular course made a big difference,” said Learning Coach Georgette Peters. “This course also showed entry-level employees the importance of their work and its impact on HCAHPS reimbursements.”
To demonstrate program value and return on investment, Mercy Health measures impact and tracks aggregate success among SAW participants. Of the 35 students who graduated from SAW last year (20 from Mercy Health Youngstown and 15 from Mercy Health Cincinnati), nine are now enrolled in higher education and pursuing further training to move up within the organization.
SAW graduate Janet Johnson found similar success. She started in an entry-level position at a Mercy affiliate hospital in 2009. With a grant from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, she trained to be an entry-level healthcare associate. This resulted in a promotion to Environmental Services, where managers recognized her leadership potential and recommended Janet for SAW. She completed SAW and is now enrolled at Penn State, pursuing a career as an occupational medicine assistant at Mercy Health Youngstown.
Mercy Health is proud to see employees like Janet advance.
“When speaking with our employees who complete the SAW program, I always thank them for bringing me along on their journey. I hope to assist in lighting the flame, and I hope the students keep it burning,” said Peters.
Mercy Health Youngstown plans to continue offering SAW courses and hopes to expand the curriculum to smaller regional partner facilities. Additionally, senior leaders hope that by offering upfront college tuition reimbursement, they can help employees overcome barriers to advancing their education, particularly those who earn the lowest wages.
The health system aims to enroll up to 45 percent of their employees in skills training programs and help more employees pursue advanced educational opportunities. As employees succeed and move up within the organization, senior leaders are seeing morale and retention rates improve, resulting in better patient care. Mercy Health Youngstown believes that employees are their most valuable resource, and by investing in them they hope to make lives better and the community stronger.
When a unit is under the direction of a charge nurse, service recovery is an important part of their role. Whether they are coaching other RNs or answering directly to the patient or family, charge nurses can directly impact the patient experience.
The charge nurse's ability to communicate and lead can have a significant impact on management, patients and staff. With strong clinical skills they raise the bar on patient care, but charge nurses aren't always comfortable with the leadership side of their role.
A focus on charge nurse development can improve employee engagement and patient care. Healthcare organizations that empower charge nurses to lead will achieve better results.
Research has shown that frontline leaders like charge nurses play an important role in keeping team members engaged. They also serve as the first line of defense when there is an upset patient or visitor. These skills can be learned and strengthened through dedicated training.
First, help charge nurses assess their leadership skills by exploring questions such as:
Key Skills that Benefit Patients and Staff
With greater self-awareness, charge nurses will have a better understanding of the key skills they can put to use right away to benefit patients and staff. Training outcomes for charge nurses should include the ability to:
University Health System’s (UHS) focus on its front line employees is delivering outstanding outcomes that it’s Talent Development strategy has been designed to deliver. With an 81% student/employee job advancement rate for a group of its frontline employees, UHS has created an environment that is supportive of employee growth and organizational success. Appropriately termed their “Talent Garden”, UHS has created an environment where everyone can thrive.
The Talent Garden’s recently graduated its first ECHO skill development cohort for mid-level associates who are now well on their way to achieving big career dreams and goals. And, while turnover costs make retention an obvious organizational priority, UHS’ efforts are still at the cutting edge of frontline engagement trends.
Studies show that highly engaged employees report that they experience ALL of these and more:
· an opportunity to learn and grow,
· are encouraged to seek development,
· have a manager that cares about them
· they view their job as important
· and someone talks about their progress
The Executive Director of the Center for Learning Excellence, Jacque Burandt, provided all of these when she chose to offer the ECHO program. “We have lots of programs, not just for directors and managers, but also for the front line,” says Jacque. “We are always working on two paths, better skill development in whatever your job is, then secondly, where do you want to go in the big vision of the health system.”
According to Jacque Burandt, Executive Director of UHS’s Center for Learning Excellence, “the ECHO program supports their philosophy of promoting from within. ECHO offers a unique opportunity for the organization to fill a gap that often prevents non clinical employees from having the tools and educational foundation necessary to successfully transition to more advanced roles within the system, should they so choose.” ECHO’s delivery format is designed for the adult learner, incorporating multiple learning modalities while at the same time providing a foundation for increased confidence, academic discipline, and formal career planning.
The quotes below show some of the successes thus far and just how well participants used and appreciated the opportunity:
"I hope that UHS can continue with programs like this one, to show their employees this company cares about continuing education." - Irma Beltran, ECHO graduate.
"I currently work in the Patient Business Services Department. The ECHO program has inspired me to go back to school. I plan to go to St. Phillips for nursing. I appreciate all you do for us."
"The ECHO Program...was an opportunity I could not pass up. It has helped me in getting motivated to go back to school. I am enrolled with Concordia University and pursuing my Bachelors in Healthcare Administration."
"I am attending Southern Careers Institute and am working towards receiving my Medical Coding Certification. The ECHO program gave me the opportunity to see that I am not too old to go back to school and pursue my dreams."
Looks like UHS certainly has some future leaders on their hands! Fifteen total employees were chosen to participate in ECHO, 12 of those completed the program - an 80% completion rate. ECHO was facilitated by a former School at Work program graduate, Laura Hernandez. She found her passion for helping others through that experience and has since earned a Bachelors in Healthcare Administration which she puts to good use at UHS.
Certainly outcomes are very important and the Talent Garden continues to track them for this first class. Be on the lookout for the continuation of this story as results come in!
Administrative assistants - they save you time, money, ensure you're prepared for half a dozen meetings a day and ward off unwanted calls and emails. If you did the math on the amount of time (money) your office assistant saves you in a given week, you'd probably be looking for the same return in all your investments.
The use of medical secretaries in hospitals, physician practices and outpatient facilities is projected to rise by 36% in the next 10 years, reports the US Department of Labor. That's more than RN's, LPN's, Medical Techs or even healthcare IT professionals. [read article]
1. Outstanding office benefits and
2. A strong belief in their own abilities.
So what about the other office support roles in your organization? If you think they can't impact quality or patient satisfaction, you might want to consider this: registrars and schedulers deal with patients that skip appointments, forget their paperwork, and pay their bills late. Medical records clerks and transcriptionists type notes that go into medical files for quality review. And coders contribute to reimbursement through accuracy, timeliness, and their efforts to make the switch to ICD-10. See our special offer on 2.5 hour seminars - good only through April 23rd.
The duties of Patient Service Reps can also have a powerful impact on HCAHPS and operational effectiveness. Last month our newsletter highlighted one organization's work in professionalizing this role. If you missed it, read here.